Forensic pathology in New Zealand

In an article on 09 March 2016, Justice Brewer was described as saying that if he’s forced to adjourn a murder trial involving a Taupo toddler, he will be calling for an inquiry into New Zealand’s forensic and pathology system. This was in response to a defence lawyer indicating that he had had difficulty instructing …

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Forensic Hair Analysis – does it get to the root of the problem?

Hair analysis is often referred to as hair follicle testing. It is commonly used in Family court matters to assess whether or not parents or caregivers who want access to children are drug-free. The process involves collection of a sample of hair (usually from the crown of the head but other areas are possible) by …

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Of the FBI and ESR: what can we expect forensic science to deliver?

I haven’t written a blog post for a loooong time.  That’s because in the last year or so I have written another book (Forensic Science and the law: a Guide for Police, Lawyers and Expert Witnesses – the first book of its kind in New Zealand) and have been involved in some high-profile cases including …

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Prosecuting sexual assault cases – new approach?

When Judith Collins was Minister for Justice she suspended Law Commission work on alternative models for prosecuting criminal cases.   The Law Commission had originally been asked to consider alternative models by the earlier Justice Minister, Simon Power.  A paper was released in February 2012 entitled “Alternative Pre-trial and Trial Processes: Possible Reforms” – so a …

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Of zombies and children

“ ’Scuse me, but do dead bodies really look like zombies?”  As questions go at the end of a presentation, this one took me by surprise – but I guess it shouldn’t have done so, given that I was speaking to about 150 primary, intermediate and high school gifted children.  With hindsight, it’s exactly what …

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The CSI effect – it’s still going…but changing shape?

Here is a link to an article on Stuff.co.nz today that deals with the CSI effect: TV shows having an influence on juries. As you will see, I added my two pennarth to it. In my experience over the last 12 months, as a phenomenon the CSI effect raises less questions at presentations and lectures …

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Expert evidence: can we learn from others?

One of the hardest things to do in life seems to be to learn from the mistakes of others.  For example, when learning to drive (“mirror, signal, manoeuvre” has been devised for good reason, not, as young male relatives seems to think, just so older people can tell younger people what to do and then …

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What is a standard alcoholic drink?

What IS a standard alcoholic drink?  It’s a nightmare, that’s what it is.  As a forensic alcohol toxicologist, the concept of a standard drink is somewhat arbitrary and inconsistent because the people drinking them differ in physical stature and biological processing ability so the alcohol in a standard drink contributes a different amount to people …

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Don’t forget: breath alcohol levels continue to rise after you stop drinking!

I have just been watching Campbell Live where the presenters had a two-hour lunch with alcoholic drinks and then tested themselves with a breath alcohol screening device to see how they felt to drive compared with what alcohol they had actually consumed.  This is all as a result of the government’s (good, in my opinion) …

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Children and mud: mutually exclusive?!

At risk of sounding like an old person, I still have to ask at what point did children become allergic to outdoor entertainment involving mud, rain and a stick?  I ask this seemingly inane question as the result of a school trip to the local beach on which I was a parent supervisor recently. We …

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