I'd been spouting off in the pub about the misuse of statistics and bad science in general, but there are so many people better qualified than me out there to comment about this. It did strike me though that there was no-one commenting specifically on how science and the law interact. Although, in fairness, it doesn't come up very often, when it does lawyers and courts can get it spectacularly wrong and it seems that this should be pointed out.
The thing that triggered me to start this was when I was flicking diligently through the Criminal Law Review, as all lawyers should, and saw the Commentary on the case of Wilson from last year. On the face of it, this is a frankly extraordinary and quite worrying case. Law (and the criminal law especially) is supposed to be based on the analysis of evidence and reason, a cold and dispassionate assessment of the facts. This case is, I believe, a good demonstration of what can go wrong.
(Almost) all of the comments I will make on this blog are taken from the judgments of the relevant cases. Judgments are supposed to contain all the relevant facts and argument, but as I certainly know from experience, this does not always happen. A blanket disclaimer therefore that apologies galore if I get something wrong, it certainly wasn’t intended.
And lastly, I should say, whilst writing this blog is clearly tragic and self-indulgent, it may hopefully save me a bit of time when colleagues ask me, yet again, to explain DNA evidence. Not much time, but a bit.