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The University of Southampton
Lifelong Learning

'Expert evidence under the microscope' Study Day  Event

10:00 - 16:00
29 November 2014
Building 65 Avenue Campus University of Southampton SO17 1BF

For more information regarding this event, please email Lifelong Learning Team at .

Event details

We will be holding a one day cultural event on Saturday 29 November 2014 with leading experts within the Faculty of Social, Human and Mathematical Sciences.

Recent media representations of forensic and expert practices (e.g. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation) present the image of forensic practitioners as heroic figures, single-handedly resolving violent criminal offences with the most up-to-date scientific tests and equipment.  While, historically, some experts have attempted to live up to this this heroic image, for the vast majority of practising experts this representation bears little resemblance to the reality of their work.  Drawing upon a range of historical, legal and social scientific perspectives, during this study day we will discuss some of the realities surrounding expert evidence, addressing what forms of knowledge and practice are actually admissible in the courts, the ways experts resolve (or attempt to resolve) expert disagreement and the ways that the law, science and medicine intersect in the form of the expert witness.  It is our intention that attendees will have a renewed, but more informed, interest in the important role of expert evidence following this event.

Speakers and titles

Phil Palmer, LLB: What next for expert evidence? 

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.

Biography: 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.

Dean Jones: Who pays the Piper?

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.

Biography: 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.

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

Abstract: 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.

Biography: 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.

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

Abstract: 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.

Biography: 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.

Matthew Nicholson: The Construction of the ‘Expert’

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.

Biography: 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.


£40 full rate (please email us for details of our new Loyalty Scheme)

£25 loyalty rate (Harbour Lights Members, Friends of Parkes, English Teachers Network, university staff and alumni)

£12.50 discount rate (students/sixth form & college students and those in receipt of income-based Job Seeker's Allowance, Income Support, Working Tax Credit, Council Tax or Housing Benefit)

All prices include lunch and refreshments



Please note that prior booking is required for attendance of this event.

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