4 September 2019

The President of Victoria’s Court of Appeal has questioned the validity of some forensic evidence, suggesting that our courts are wrongfully convicting people: “There have been a string of wrongful convictions across the world. The benefit of better DNA testing has shown that very many people convicted on the basis of ‘crook science’, for example, bite mark analysis, were innocent. This seems to me to be a matter of profound concern.” The deputy director of the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine shares these concerns, saying that significant American reports (such as a 2016 report by the President’s scientific advisory council) had been rejected by Victoria Police: “They are very resistant to change. When it comes to fingerprints, they are most often right. But it is the other stuff — like analysing foot marks, tool marks, ballistics, there is no real evidence-based science around what they are doing. It is purely opinion based on ‘I’ve done a thousand of these, you should believe me’.” This warrants a thorough review of the rules of evidence and police investigative practices.