Select Committee on Science and Technology

No.2 of Session 2005-06 21 July 2005



The Science and Technology Committee publishes its First Special Report of Session 2005-06, Forensic Science on Trial: Government Response to the Committee's Seventh Report of Session 2004-05, (HC 427 ) at 11.00 am on Monday 25 July.

The Committee has decided to invite Ministers to give oral evidence in the Autumn on the Government's Response.

Phil Willis, Chairman of the Committee, said: "The pivotal role that expert witnesses play in the courts has been brought sharply into focus by the recent controversy over Sir Roy Meadow. The Committee's Report identified a number of concrete safeguards that could reduce the chances of problems with expert evidence leading to miscarriages of justice, but the Government Response fails to engage with these arguments. It is disappointing that the Government has missed this opportunity to take a proper look at how we can improve the way the courts handle expert evidence. We have therefore decided that we need to follow this up."

Notes to editors:

Copies of the Report will be available for collection from 7 Millbank, from the time of publication. Copies can also be obtained from TSO outlets and from the Parliamentary Bookshop, 12 Bridge Street, Parliament Square, London SW1A 2JX (020 7219 3890) by quoting the appropriate HC number. There will not be advance copies.

The text of the Committee's Report as well and the Government's response are available via the Committee's internet homepage:

"Forensic Science on Trial" explored a range of issues, including the Government's proposed privatisation of the Forensic Science Service, custodianship of the National DNA Database, forensic science education and R&D in forensic technologies. The Report also made a number of recommendations aimed at improving the handling of expert evidence in court. For example:

Jury research should be allowed to provide an insight into how juries handle scientific evidence. The Committee suggests that the possibility of trials without juries should be considered in cases which rely on highly complex and technical forensic evidence.

The way statistical evidence is presented to juries must be reviewed, and the Bar and Judicial Studies Board should introduce compulsory minimum training and continuing professional development for judges and lawyers in forensic evidence. Similarly, expert witnesses themselves should receive general training in the legal process and presenting evidence to court.

The text of the Report will also be available via the Committee's internet homepage:

For further information please call Ana Ferreira, on 020 7219 2793. Previous press notices and publications are available on our website.

Membership of the Committee:

Mr Phil Willis (Lib Dem, Harrogate and Knaresborough)(Chairman)
Adam Afriyie (Con, Windsor)
Mr Robert Flello (Lab, Stoke-on-Trent South)
Dr Ian Gibson (Lab, Norwich North)
Dr Evan Harris (Lib Dem, Oxford West & Abingdon)
Dr Brian Iddon (Lab, Bolton South East)
Margaret Moran (Lab, Luton South)
Mr Brooks Newmark (Con, Braintree)
Anne Snelgrove (Lab/Co-op, South Swindon)
Bob Spink (Con, Castle Point)
Dr Desmond Turner (Lab, Brighton Kemptown)