01 January 2011

Us and Them

The Lockerbie Case blog has just posted, "So What Has Changed?", an observation about the poor state of forensic evidence in British courts.

Although not hard to do, the piece is extraordinarily damning of British justice; that is, it exposes the lack of satisfactory forensic analysis within the system.

One aspect of forensic analyses that strikes me is that they are unnecessarily poor.

If we were thinking about some sort of medical test, we would demand to know its false positive and false negative rates but when we think of a forensic test (eg sniffer dogs, fingerprints etc) this demand goes out of the window. We just don't seem to think something as vital as knowing whether or not our test is valid is necessary.



But why? Why do we entertain assays in our courts that have not been validated?

I think the difference between the two circumstances is that medical assays apply to us while forensic assays apply to them.

There may be a chance that we will need a reliable medical assay but forensic assays only apply to criminals, right?

Can you think of a better reason?

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