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Televised trials would put off expert witnesses, scientist claims

3 January 2018

Televising criminal trials would result in fewer expert witnesses being willing to appear, according to a prominent forensic scientist.

The Scotsman reports today a claim by Professor Dame Sue Black that such a move would make a "challenging environment" even more stressful for scientists.

In 2015 a review by Lady Dorrian, the Lord Justice Clerk, recommended a relaxation of the rules on the filming of court proceedings to permit broadcasting of appeal hearings and the filming of some criminal trials for documentary purposes, though not live broadcasts of trials (click here for news item). She reported concerns about the reluctance of witnesses generally to give evidence before cameras.

However Professor Black warned that some experts already find appearing in court "too confrontational, too adversarial for them. There's a lot of expert witnesses get to that point and they're done". 

Pointing out that an expert's reputation was "on the line" every time they stepped into the witness box, she stated: "A courtroom is not a natural place for a scientist to occupy. It's already a challenging environment to occupy; making it into a televised environment just adds additional stress."

She herself had stopped appearing on TV programmes after a judge had told a jury to think of her as an expert witness and not a TV celebrity.


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