Title

Pattern recognition and forensic identification: The presumption of scientific accuracy and other falsehoods

Date of this Version

8-1-2009

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Details

Interim status: Citation only.

Coyle, I. R., Field, D., & Wenderoth, P. (2009). Pattern recognition and forensic identification: The presumption of scientific accuracy and other falsehoods. Criminal Law Journal, 33(4), 214-226.

Access the publisher's website.

2009 HERDC submission. FoR Code: 1801

© Copyright Thomson Reuters, 2009.

Abstract

Decision-making in forensic contexts where patterns (such as fingerprints) are compared involves processes of perception and cognition which are notoriously fallible in many circumstances. The known or potential rate of error in those scientific methods of forensic identification which have long been accepted by the courts is often higher than would generally be perceived, despite the presumption of accuracy of such techniques.

In this article, the authors argue that errors arising from perceptual and cognitive errors in such forensic identification evidence are overwhelmingly due to the misuse and profound lack of understanding of basic epistemological and statistical principles. To avoid miscarriage of justice, these principles need to be understood and safeguards employed so that the legal process is not contaminated by pseudoscience.

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This document has been peer reviewed.