Regulation of forensic scientists in New Zealand

Categories: New Zealand specific

As it stands at the moment (August 2009), forensic scientists in New Zealand are not required to be registered with any independent, professional organisation that checks their credibility. It is left to the court to determine whether the Expert Witness is suitably qualified before they give evidence. One hopes that the instructing solicitor/barrister has checked the credentials of the individual before instructing them to do a job, but what if they haven’t?
The UK has a registration system and the courts are strict on who is allowed to give evidence. Such registration and checking of experts and their areas of expertise arose as the result of some severe miscarriages of justice including Sally Clark, who was wrongly convicted of murdering two of her children, partly on the basis of incorrectly presented statistical evidence given by Professor Sir Roy Meadow. Other famous British miscarriages of justice that led to scrutinisation of expert witnesses include the Birmingham Six and Judith Ward.
The New Zealand Independent Forensic Practitioners’ Institute is an optional body to which forensic scientists can apply to become members, and scientists at ESR are checked by their own internal systems and the laboratories are accredited with the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/Laboratory Accreditation Board.
The question is: should forensic scientists practicing in New Zealand be required to be independently registered or checked in some way before they are instructed for casework?

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Forensic Scientist