The reliability of defence expert evidence in Kuwait criminal justice system : a comparative study with proposals for reform
This study investigated the reliability of defence expert evidence in the Kuwaiti criminal justice system using a comparative approach. The professional standing and code of practice of prosecution experts in Kuwait and Egypt and defence experts in the UK was used as a baseline. The present level of professional standing of defence experts in Kuwait and whether they were qualified to undertake forensic work was examined. The private sector practice in criminal cases in respect of the methods and procedures during evidence handling and processing from crime scene to court was investigated with special reference to the proper application of quality standards. The court monitoring system of expert evidence by defence lawyers was considered as a vital element providing a better support for the appropriate application of quality standards within forensic practices. The level of awareness of forensic science practice by defence solicitors in Kuwait, Egypt and the UK was examined with reference to their ability to participate in the court monitoring system of expert evidence. The findings are supported by survey responses, data from interviews, information gleaned from relevant criminal cases and studies on the use of expert evidence in criminal trials. Document authentication, handwriting analysis, pathology, and medical examination were found to be the only expertise available to the defence in Kuwait. The quantitative and qualitative data and their analysis have shown that defence experts giving evidence in these areas were not qualified to undertake forensic casework. Since they had operated in their single-person organisations, they were not involved in continuing professional development and they provide courts with expert evidence which is based only on experience. Some of them gave opinion evidence on matters outside the area of their immediate forensic discipline. In practice, there were no indicators that they followed protocols which give rise to quality forensic evidence. A peer review system was also not in operation in their practice. The level of awareness of forensic science practice by defence solicitors in Kuwait was also regarded as not sufficient to spot weaknesses in the forensic practice and in the opinion and scientific evidence given by experts, thus increasing the risk of presenting unreliable expert evidence in court. This study explored the weaknesses in defence expert evidence in particular and in the forensic practice in general. The findings have recommendationsf or raising standards of defence expert evidence in Kuwait and guidelines were given for the establishment of reliable expert evidence in Kuwaiti and Egyptian criminal courts.