Junk science to keep littering courts

Andrew L. Urban

National cabinet (that bastard child of the pandemic) has dumped the review by the nation’s Attorneys-General into junk science that was to lead to reforms in crucial evidence presented in courts.

Just so you know, the widely accepted forensic ‘sciences’ of bullet, hair, footprint, bite mark and mixed sample DNA are all actually junk science; they are not based on solid scientific evidence. Neither is Shaken Baby Syndrome. See ‘Shaken Baby Syndrome convictions rely on junk science and tunnel vision’ 

Likewise, covert recordings used by police to gather evidence, are transcribed in a dangerously unscientific way. See “Did he say I shot the prick or I can’t breathe”?

The review intended to explore the establishment of basic standards that could be benchmarks for such evidence. It also wanted to examine the whether juries were capable of understanding complex scientific evidence – often crucial in serious criminal trials where the penalties are severe.

The investigation had clocked up 16 months but was quietly closed off earlier this year after the national cabinet downsized the Council of Attorneys-General, restricting its focus to family violence, protection for older Australians and defamation law reform.

Professor Gary Edmond, director of the University of NSW’s expertise, evidence and law program, was quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald, saying completing the review was already “long overdue” but it now appeared there was no end date in sight. “That doesn’t mean the states themselves can’t go ahead on their own. What’s stopping Victoria from looking at the same issue itself? This needs to be done – we’re completely out of step with other comparable countries that have standards that say forensic science evidence doesn’t get into a trial unless it’s demonstrably reliable.”

The push to put the review on the national agenda had been spearheaded by then Victorian attorney-general Jill Hennessy and president of the Victorian Court of Appeal Justice Chris Maxwell, who were both outspoken in their concerns about the integrity of the legal system and potential for miscarriages of justice.

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6 Responses to Junk science to keep littering courts

  1. Poppa Maddo says:

    Follow my TWEETS at @MaddoPoppa and you will learn from me and many others what is really wrong and needs reform in THE ENGLISH ADVERSARIAL system of Justice.

  2. Steven Fennell says:

    Justice for the prosecution is, or should be an evidence quantifiable conviction. Justice for the defendant is not obtainable if the forensic evidence is not based on science. Justice should; rather does require that both sides in court present the best science in respect to forensic evidence. Sadly; all to often in high profile cases the police present the DPP with little more than circumstantial evidence. At this point the DPP has to weigh up if the circumstantial evidence is likely to obtain a conviction the problem is that human beings get in the way of science. If there is political or public pressure to convict an alleged podophile, or an accused murderer then reputations, egos and a need to impress a superior can lead to junk science being presented to an untrained jury without strong objection from an unseasoned barrister.

    Add to that the office of the DPP with limited budgets scoop up exotic forensics and convince the jury that this is solid mainstream evidence; so footprint, bite mark and mixed sample DNA get past judges that are as bewildered as the jury. but accept the evidence on the prosecutors reputation and their enthusiasm to have the evidence admitted. I posit that a jury that sees a prosecutor arguing for evidence that may ultimately be rejected is wrongly an impermissibly given weight by the jury using that old adage “where there is smoke there must be fire”

    There is a very high profile case in QLD where (as I recall) a knee print, or shoe print in a garden bed outside a window was the best evidence the DPP had. In the hands of an experienced and eloquent orator a jury convicted. I make no assertions of innocence or guilt rather that on the totality of evidence which was as I say circumstantial then one can logically deduce that the jury and the prosecution’s knee print, or shoe print evidence tipped the scales of justice.

    I can understand a government’s hesitation to rush for a review fearing that a number of suspect convictions will seek appeals. I look forward to but hold out little hope of any real change being undertaken by politicians that look for votes in hard-line law and order policies. The community may truly want justice politicians, and aspiring politicians simply want to get elected and law and order is always a winner.

    • Chris says:

      “I can understand a government’s hesitation to rush for a review fearing that a number of suspect convictions will seek appeals. ”

      Yes, they just do not want to know. They dont look for wrongful convictions, so dont find any.. and then pat themselves on the back for how few wrongful convictions have been uncovered. The standard of science that enters into criminal trials is truly appalling,. but they just do not want to know about it.

      • Jenny says:

        You will find that there are more cases of proven wrongful conviction where the eyewitness testimony was faulty than where the so called “junk science” was faulty. Does that mean that therefore we should exclude eyewitness testimony from criminal trials or should we weigh it against all other evidence including the evidence from “junk science” opinions?

  3. owen allen says:

    Lest I forget Andrew McGregor ex Victorian Detective and Wendy and Graeme Scurr.
    I met Andrew with Ron opposite Tasmania Parliament. Wendy and Graeme were neighbours.
    Australia, Andrew has a big issue to resolve and it needs tough people.
    I volunteer, because I can not refute the facts I witnessed in the early days, but media has it.
    Do we want truth? Subject? Mass murder. For gun control.
    Is this a discussion, Andrew McGregor went out there, and they knew nobody would listen. They stitched it up.
    Nazis Rule Australia. Australia is in Dire Straits.

  4. owen allen says:

    Thanks Andrew. Australia seems to be an International Back Water.
    It is, to its National Shame, lagging behind worlds best practice in many areas of justice social justice, and human rights.
    We, as concerned citizens have a duty of care to stand up to protect the unprotected;
    I have great respect for you Andrew, and I hope you have a few cronies for righteousness,
    and you gain more prepared to never back off and stand up to the social bacteria from Tasmania to Canberra. Cooee is the call, for brave heart suits to join the game.
    You inspire me and encourage me Andrew, as have Ron, Stan, Isla, Colin, Eve, Robert and Barbara.
    I am a pleb in the social economic structure, but have refused to go down the path of profit and destruction; a message to Michael Phelan, CE of Australian Criminal Criminal Intelligence Commission.
    He has a big job ahead of him in Tasmania. Good luck and Godspeed Michael.

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