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Lies, damn lies and statistics

Daeid, N. Nic (2006) Lies, damn lies and statistics. Science and Justice, 46 (1). p. 12. ISSN 1355-0306

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The problems associated with the presentation of scientific evidence in court have always been challenging. Indeed, all one has to do is look back an uncomfortably few number of years for illustrations of gross misinterpretations of scientific evidence either by scientists themselves from the witness box, by the legal experts during examination or in summation of such evidence to the jury. The difficulties in presenting and communicating often complex scientific information to a lay audience are not new. Neither are the rules by which we must operate within a legal or judicial framework, after all legal systems of one form or another were in existence long before forensic science was applied to criminal or civil investigations. Yet, even with rules, laws of evidence and hard lessons of the past learned through the appeal courts, there are persistent and recurring difficulties in communication between the scientific expert and the court.