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The University of Southampton
Institute of Criminal Justice Research

Expert Evidence Under the Microscope Event

10:00 - 17:00
29 November 2014
University of Southampton Avenue Campus

For more information regarding this event, please email Professor Jenny Fleming at .

Event details

A one-day study day in collaboration with the University of Southampton Lifelong Learning team.

What next for expert evidence? Phil Palmer, LLB


In criminal trials there is an increasing reliance on expert evidence. Today there is a wide availability of experts and an increasing diversity of topics on which expertise is claimed. This reflects lawyers' perceptions that experts generally will have an answer for everything. There is a danger that such perceptions are producing unsafe convictions as courts too readily admit evidence based on weak scientific bases. This presentation considers expert evidence in criminal trials and whether the processes by which it is adduced are fair and efficient.


Phil Palmer is the Co-Director of the Institute of Criminal Justice and Senior Lecturer in Criminal and Tort Law at the University of Southampton. Prior to taking up his appointment at Southampton University he was Head of The National Operations Faculty and Head of Public Reassurance and the National Centre for Policing Excellence. He is a retired police officer.

Who pays the Piper? Dean Jones


A legal definition of an 'expert' as opposed to a 'professional' witness and a historical reflection on expert medical opinion in murder cases; we will look at cases of one of the most famous forensic pathologists in history: Sir Bernard Spilsbury and compare his work with the forensic pathologists work of today. Has anything changed? The talk will conclude with a discussion on current issues affecting the Criminal Justice System in respect of expert opinion.


Dean Jones currently works for the Home Office overseeing the provision of forensic pathology services to police and coroners in England and Wales. He was formerly a Detective Superintendent in charge of homicide investigations and was responsible for writing the training programmes for detective officers in England and Wales.

Forensic Feuds: A case study of controversial science within the Criminal Justice System, Dr Geth Rees.


What happens when expert evidence is presented that is based upon techniques not generally accepted? This paper will investigate the scientific fallout from two cases where the Alcohol Provocation Test was used to identify whether a person with a sleep disorder was more likely to perform violent behaviours after falling asleep whilst intoxicated. Drawing upon the medical debate, the paper will close with some recommendations based on the Law Commission's recent report on the admissibility of expert evidence.


Gethin Rees is a Lecturer in Criminology at the University of Southampton. He is interested in the use of medical evidence in the criminal justice system, especially in rape and sexual assault cases, and the treatment of victims. His current work on the medico-legal and popular narratives of the sexsomnia defence is being funded by the Socio-Legal Studies Association.

The Juridification of Trauma in Delayed Child Sexual Abuse Prosecutions, Sinéad Ring.


This discussion will show how the courts in Ireland have transformed psychological and scientific expert knowledge about trauma into a legal category that may be used to frame legal responses to the evidential problems caused by delayed reporting. I will draw out the problems with this juridification of trauma in terms of the effects it has of silencing certain complainants’ accounts of harm and of silencing broader questions about societal and cultural responsibility for child abuse.


Dr Sinéad Ring is a Lecturer in Law at Kent Law School . She is interested in the intersection of expert knowledge and the production of social knowledge through the criminal trial. Her doctoral research comprised a critical examination of how the principles of fairness to the accused, accuracy of fact-finding and communication of the dignity of trial participants were expressed in, and shaped by, trials of non-recent child sexual abuse offences.

The Construction of the ‘Expert’, Matthew Nicholson


Matthew considers the power and influence of the expert in legal processes and institutions and explores the ways in which law constructs ideas about expertise and knowledge in society.


Dr Matthew Nicholson joined the Southampton Law School in September 2012. He has previously worked as a teaching fellow at University Council London. He is currently working on a critical theory of international law and international legal practice.

Speaker information

Phil Palmer LLB,Senior Lecturer in Law

Dean Jones,The Home Office,Forensic Pathology

Dr Gethin Rees,Lecturer in Criminology

Sinéad Ring ,Kent Law School,Lecturer in Law

Matthew Nicholson,Lecturer in Public International Law

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