The Evolving Role of Statistical Assessments as Evidence in the Courts

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You must not compromise on these matters, or act where there is an actual or potential conflict of interest unless this conflict is disclosed. An expert witness is also under a duty to maintain confidentiality. If you are going to undertake expert witness work regularly, you would be well advised to join an appropriate organisation such as the Academy of Experts, the Institute of Expert Witnesses, the Veterinary Association for Arbitration and Jurisprudence or the Council for the Registration of Forensic Practitioners: see List of Experts below.

For example;. A good basic format is to have:. A witness gives either evidence of fact or opinion evidence and there is no category of professional evidence.


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In Scotland, an expert who is a professional and also a witness to fact may give evidence as to both fact and opinion. The same applies when undertaking both professional witness and expert witness work. Both types of witness should be aware of being drawn or pressurised into giving evidence or expressing opinions which are beyond their level of experience or expertise. Professional and expert witnesses can expect to be challenged in the witness box if they stray outside their own expertise, and should be firm and clear both with those instructing them and the Court as to the boundaries of their expertise and experience.

The circumstances in which such a situation can arise may be less than clear cut. For example, whereas most veterinary surgeons may consider themselves competent to state whether or not a dog was emaciated, the same may not be said for an emaciated horse; it may not always be clear to a non-specialist veterinary surgeon that a particular species of animal is suffering distress in a particular set of circumstances. Veterinary surgeons should be alive to the possibility of a clinical case developing into a legal case, whether criminal e. Apart from assistance from more senior colleagues, veterinary surgeons are advised to consider contacting the police, RSPCA or local authority officers if they are unsure about whether to collect evidence.

This applies to the collection, handling and despatch of samples. Practically speaking this means knowing and being able to state where the sample has been and how it has been stored from the moment it was taken.

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Taking these precautions will minimise the risk that the evidence could be subsequently challenged as having been contaminated or tampered with and rejected. In Scottish cases, it is recommended that two witnesses should be called to verify the above details in order that the information is corroborated. The appropriate method of collection and storage depends upon the nature of the sample. Diagnostic laboratories will be able to give some assistance as to how samples should be collected, sealed and stored. In some situations two, or even three, identical samples should be collected, labelled separately and stored.

Again, this precaution will minimise the risk that the evidence could be subsequently challenged as inconclusive or incorrect. The witness will then be cross-examined by the Defence lawyer, and may be re-examined by the Prosecution lawyer.

The same procedure is then followed by the Defence. Save for Northern Ireland, there may also be witness statements read to the court in the absence of that witness for example because the evidence is agreed between the parties or the witness is too ill to attend — but see paragraph 4 above regarding Scottish witness evidence. When all the witness evidence has been heard, the Defence lawyer and the Prosecutor may give closing speeches, summing up the evidence that has been heard and applying the law to the evidence as they see it.

If the verdict is guilty, pleas in mitigation will then be heard. If there is a bench they will again retire to consider sentence, and will return to announce the sentence. If the case is before a resident magistrate Northern Ireland s he will similarly proceed to sentence. On their return to the court room the Chairman of the Jury will announce the verdict when asked by the judge. The judge will then determine the sentence. In Northern Ireland, evidence in chief is still formally given orally and statements are not commonly used. The normal procedure is for all evidence to be led orally at the hearing, except in special circumstances where the evidence of witnesses is taken prior to the hearing see again paragraph 4 above.

The Sheriff or Judge s will usually, having heard the case, retire to consider their judgement and deliver this in writing thereafter.


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  • There is the possibility to have a civil case heard before a jury in the Court of Session. If you are engaged as an expert witness you should re-read your report, the reports of other experts and all documents appended to those reports. Plan to arrive in good time for the hearing allowing for journey time you may wish to consider staying locally the night before. Once inside the court look for the court listing sheets usually pinned to the walls or in glass fronted cabinets.

    These set out the court lists for each judge in each court room. If you cannot find any court listing sheets ask the usher, clerks or other court staff as sometimes they are delayed in posting the lists. When attending either the Court of Session or any Sheriff Court in Scotland, witnesses should speak to staff on the front desk for directions to the appropriate court.

    When attending court you should dress appropriately in a suit — a trial is a formal occasion.

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    Ensure that your mobile phone or pager is turned off or switched to silent. As a guide:. Save for Scotland, where the choice is either to swear on the Holy Bible or to affirm, you will be asked the holy book on which you want to swear. The court usher has copies of the holy books of the main faiths. You will then be asked to read the oath or affirmation off the card handed to you. If you have any corrections to your statement which you want to make, this is the time to do so.

    When being asked questions it is important to listen to, and answer, the question that is asked. You should answer the questions as fully as you need to, but no more, bearing in mind that the advocate cannot ask you leading questions. Use simple, non-technical language. If you have to give a technical answer, explain it. If you do not understand the question, you should ask for clarification.

    If you do not know the answer to a question you should simply say so.

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    Expert reports in Scottish civil cases are usually lodged with the court and available to all parties prior to the proof civil trial hearing. However an expert is still required to speak to their report and will be examined in chief on this. Gee More. Search Blog or Docket. The road from Atkins The Supreme Court first announced an Eighth Amendment bar to executing persons with diminished mental capacity in Atkins v. Symposium: Stripping church-state separation to the bone? The Supreme Court considers mandatory government funding of religious education — Daniel Mach.

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