Home Event
Preventing Miscarriages of Justice: the Reliability of Forensic Evidence and the Role of the Trial Judge as Gatekeeper

Justice Maxwell to deliver a guest lecture at DLS.

Deakin Law School takes great pleasure in inviting you to a guest lecture presented by The Honourable Justice Maxwell AC, President of the Victorian Court of Appeal.

The lecture titled ‘Preventing Miscarriages of Justice’, will provide deep insight into the reliability of forensic evidence and the role of the trial judge as a gatekeeper. In this lecture, Justice Maxwell will discuss “the obvious risk in a criminal trial when expert evidence is led from a forensic scientist is that a jury will give the evidence more weight than it deserves”  (Tuite v The Queen [2015] VSCA 148, 11.). His Honour will highlight that in order “to prevent unfair prejudice of that kind, it is essential that the reliability of the expert evidence be established to the Court’s satisfaction before it is led” (Tuite v The Queen [2015] VSCA 148, 11.).

Justice Maxwell will further explore, with reference to US and Australian commentaries, the responsibility of the forensic sciences themselves and the scope for utilization of court-appointed experts. For instance, in 2015, the Victorian Court of Appeal applied the decision of the US Supreme Court in Daubert, which defined the “gatekeeper” role of the trial judge as being to ensure that “all scientific testimony … is not only relevant but reliable”. 

A paper that Justice Maxwell prepared has examined the onerous nature of that responsibility, especially given the serious lack of validation in so many areas of forensic science, as revealed by the 2009 Report of the National Academy of Sciences and the 2016 Report of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.