Supreme Court halts use of expert opinions (Feb. 20, 2014 Globe and Mail)

As a person with an interest in evidence-based practice, in all fields of endeavour, I was interested to read a Feb. 20, 2014 Globe and Mail article entitled: “Supreme Court halts use of expert opinions.”

The opening paragraphs read:

  • The Supreme Court of Canada has told the country’s prosecutors that expert witnesses, including police officers, must not give opinions based on their experience.
  • The ruling, in a major drug case, has wide implications for the prosecution of serious crimes, from high-value theft to murder, in which experts are called on to draw inferences or analyze evidence before the court. Such testimony has been linked to wrongful convictions, and the court was unanimous in trying to call a halt to opinion it feels has been disguised as fact.

[End of excerpt]

The concluding paragraphs read:

  • Ben Berger, a criminal-law specialist at Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto, said the ruling is an attempt by the court to rein in expert witnesses, part of a trend since Ontario’s 2008 Goudge inquiry into more than a dozen wrongful convictions in baby deaths, stemming from the testimony of disgraced Toronto pathologist Charles Smith.
  • The Supreme Court found that “police experience on its own is something that has to be looked at with suspicion and a critical eye,” Prof. Berger said. “That’s important not just in a drug setting but in pretty much any criminal investigatory setting.”

Update

A Feb. 8, 2016 CBC article is entitled: “Motherisk scandal highlights risk of deferring to experts without questioning credentials: Lab’s flawed hair testing echoes Charles Smith scandal, with similarly devastating effects.”

 

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