Forensic Science Regulator guidance on expert reports

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On 15th May 2020, the Forensic Science Regulator issued updated guidance for forensic scientists who produce expert reports for use in the criminal justice system.

The Guidance contains some amendments to the previous guidance issued in 2017. The full document can be found here

It provides forensic scientists with a clear and comprehensive guide on how to construct their reports and what they need to include.

There are a number of matters which particularly stand out, although the document needs to be read as a whole by all in this sector.

1. Clarity: Section 14 deals with issues of clarity in report writing and, amongst others, makes the following points:

a. Reports must be capable of being read and understood by those (including jurors) who do not have the technical understanding of the expert
b. It is advisable not to use the term “consistent with”, as this is thought to be meaningless and therefore of no value; on the other hand, it is acceptable to use the term “inconsistent with”, as this is more readily understandable and can accurately communicate what the writer intends.
c. Under paragraph 14.2.5, there is guidance on how to make reference to ISO 17025, which helps to clarify what has been an ongoing issue for some laboratories

2. Declaration of non-compliance with the Code: Under CrimPD19A.7(e) & (f), an expert is required to declare if they, or a corporation or body with which they work, or others associated with that corporation or body, have been subject to any “adverse finding, disciplinary proceedings or other criticism” by a regulatory authority. The Guidance provides details on how the FSR expects experts to include any such matters of non-compliance.

This guidance clearly sets out the legal requirements for expert reports and requirements imposed by certain prosecuting authorities. As a vital element in litigation, expert reports must also be clear, succinct, independent and well presented.

Bond Solon offers a virtual classroom training on report writing for expert witnesses. The course teaches you how to achieve best practice standards when writing expert reports. This highly practical course is delivered by experienced lawyer trainers, who provide a unique insight into what the courts expect from experts’ reports. Find out more about this course here