Scottish Universities Insight Institute : a development from the institute for advanced studies

a development from the institute for advanced studies


Scots law of evidence – fit for purpose in the digital and global age?

Despite its prevalence, there has been no detailed appraisal of the use of scientific evidence in Scottish criminal trials. This project examines the rules of admissibility of such evidence in court, and their fitness for purpose in the 21st century. Issues include:

  • Whether the evaluation of evidence in a court should involve, overtly or not, the use of likelihood ratios and, if so, how?
  • What standards of reliability should scientific evidence satisfy before it is admissible?
  • Should these standards be more demanding where privacy and bodily integrity are at stake? For example, emerging techniques in forensic anthropology have successfully used digital photographs of anatomy to identify perpetrators in child internet pornography and sexual assault cases, where corroboration is particularly difficult to find.
  • What are the ethical and human rights dimensions of such intrusive photography?
  • To what extent does the Scots rule requiring corroboration of a perpetrator’s identity hamper criminal prosecutions? Most other legal systems have abolished this rule. Should Scotland do likewise?

By harnessing the expertise of academics in law, forensic statistics, anatomy and psychology, and of the police, judiciary and practising lawyers, this project will aim to:

  • Establish how the courts in practice determine the reliability and validity of scientific evidence, and consider how they ought to do so.
  • Design a principled framework to govern what constitutes admissible scientific evidence, which will satisfy the needs of both scientist and the courts, whilst bearing in mind the human rights of the accused and the requirements of a fair trial.
  • Make recommendations for reform.

 While the focus is on the Scottish law of evidence, the project’s implications extend to other jurisdictions, each of which faces similar issues in determining the rules for the admissibility of scientific evidence.


  • Admissibility of Scientific Evidence   
  • Forensic Scientific Techniques and Human Rights
  • Programme Team

Programme report

The programme report is now available, together with a short summary of the findings and recommendations.

Document library

Speakers' presentations from each workshop can be downloaded from the Document library.

Email the organisers

Email for Sue Black

Email for Colin Aitken

Email for Pamela Ferguson

Key dates

Admissibility of Scientific Evidence, 12-14 April 2011

Forensic Scientific Techniques and the Human Rights Dimension, 30 May- 2 June 2011

Concluding Seminar: 12 September 2011 (programme team only)