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Some of the lawyers don’t ask the questions I think they’re really meaning to: Experiences of communication about forensic science in criminal cases

conference contribution
posted on 2023-05-24, 14:31 authored by Loene HowesLoene Howes
This poster presents the findings of interviews with legal practitioners and forensic scientists about the communication of forensic scientific evidence in the criminal justice system. Legal practitioners (including Supreme Court judges, Crown prosecutors, and criminal defence lawyers; n = 12), and case-reporting forensic biologists and chemists (n = 27) from Australian jurisdictions were invited to participate in the research. Participants engaged in semi-structured interviews about how well their communication about forensic evidence met their information needs, given their roles in the criminal justice system. The use of technical language and limited case-specific detail made reliance on expert reports a challenge for legal practitioners. Participants from all groups reported that communication at pre-trial conferences facilitated both leading and presenting expert evidence effectively during a trial. However, while participants concurred that making forensic science comprehensible to the judge and jury was a shared responsibility, forensic scientists’ opportunities to explain clearly in court were impacted by the questions asked of them by lawyers. Implications for practice are discussed in terms of ensuring that forensic science is understood well, presented clearly, and used effectively in criminal trials.


Australian Federal Police


Publication title

ANZAPPL (ACT) / RANZCP Faculty of Forensic Psychiatry Conference


School of Social Sciences



Place of publication


Event title

35th Annual Congress of the Australian and New Zealand Association of Psychiatry, Psychology and Law (ANZAPPL)

Event Venue


Date of Event (Start Date)


Date of Event (End Date)


Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Criminal justice

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