Science Friction: Streamlined Forensic Reporting, Reliability and Justice

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Streamlined Forensic Reporting (SFR), introduced as part of the Ministry of Justice’s drive to deliver Swift and Sure Justice, is credited with generating both time and cost efficiencies. Through the provision of radically abbreviated forensic reports at an earlier stage in criminal proceedings, SFR is said to avoid the cost of long form reports, facilitate agreement between the parties, secure more guilty pleas, and reduce the number of defence challenges to forensic science evidence. This article questions these claims and the value of SFR as conceived. It suggests that the limited empirical evidence is mixed and that SFR is incompatible with emerging trends and the best advice on the presentation of forensic science evidence. SFR directs little attention to the quality – that is, the validity and scientific reliability – of forensic science evidence. In overlooking quality, SFR introduces new risks of misrepresentation, misunderstanding and mistakes, and is unlikely to align with longstanding and fundamental criminal justice values (such as transparency, rationality, rectitude, equality of arms, and fairness) and so is unlikely to fulfill the fundamental goal of dealing with cases justly.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)764-792
Number of pages28
JournalOxford Journal of Legal Studies
Issue number4
Early online date27 Sept 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2018


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