Bodies of Knowledge and Robes of Expertise: Expert Evidence about Drugs, Gangs and Human Trafficking

Tony Ward, Shahrzad Fouladvand

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

This article discusses a type of expert evidence in which a witness, often a police
officer or other state official, informs the court about patterns of criminal activity
and in some cases draws inferences as to the defendant’s involvement in such
activity. Their claim to expertise rests not on academic knowledge or scientific
research but on some combination of personal experience and information from
colleagues and informants which is considered to comprise part of the “body of
knowledge” in their field. While we accept that such witnesses may have genuine
expertise, the reliability of their evidence is as much in need of critical scrutiny
as that of scientific experts. We examine in particular the evidence of police officers who infer gang membership from rap lyrics and videos, and the decisions of the Single Competent Authority identifying victims of human trafficking, which have recently been found admissible as hearsay evidence of expert opinion.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)442-460
Number of pages19
JournalCriminal Law Review
Volume2021
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2021

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