Communicating Forensic Evidence
Themes will be developed by collaborative research projects, studentships, CPD and Knowledge Transfer activities.
Judges frequently rule that the evidence of experts must be simplified in order that it can readily be followed by a jury, and even that certain kinds of (statistical) evidence are inadmissible because of their intrinsic complexity. Consequently there is some imperative to ensure that evidence is accessible without violating the rule of disclosing to the Court all matters that may be of substantive importance to the case. Developing strategies to communicate such evidence effectively is an area that will be investigated by the parallel interdisciplinary Centre for Informational Forensic Sciences.
Of similar significance in this area is the increasing use by the courts of the electronic presentation of evidence (EPE), namely software that permits evidence of various forms and in various modalities (audio, video etc) to be efficiently presented to juries via computer screens. This meshes well with jury expectations (known in the USA as the 'CSI effect' - as yet to be seriously investigated). It is also economical in respect to court time and it is therefore greatly encouraged. At a practical level, EPE may be developed in interesting and innovative ways. However, its impact on the evidence itself poses a number of interesting research questions.
Finally, there are a range of issues that arise in connection with communicating what may be complex forensic evidence where the defendant has an impairment of some kind. Provision of a sign language interpreter for a defendant may be of limited value in cases where the defendant happens not to speak sign language, and consideration needs to be given to the means by which a disabled defendant may or may not be able to understand their rights - or even follow the proceedings of their own trial, an axiom of the legal system. The Centre aims to conduct the primary research into how it may be established that a defendant is or is not linguistically competent to stand trial.