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Title: Conceptualising beliefs and understanding their (mis)use in the forensic sciences
Author: Smit, Nadine M.
ISNI:       0000 0004 7970 6267
Awarding Body: UCL (University College London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2019
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The growing forensic evidence base is often not fully reflected in the development of theories and the truth-finding process throughout the criminal justice system. This is worrying; it may lead to a misunderstanding of the meaning and value of the evidence by decision-makers, which has been shown to result in wrongful convictions on a significant scale. One of the justifications for the range of issues and concerns expressed over the years regarding the analysis, interpretation, and presentation of evidence includes a limited situational understanding of observations at that time. This thesis addresses the hypothesis that some misinterpretations (i.e. an invalid belief in an hypothesis given the evidence) could have been minimised. Four related approaches demonstrate that in many cases, better inferences and decisions could have been made. First, the legal, historical, logical, and knowledge-base perspectives on making reasonable and fair arguments from observations are explored. The challenges which need to be overcome between the law and sciences are demonstrated, and a case is made that fundamental theories of analyses and interpretations have not been studied sufficiently in the light of scientific approaches and reasoning processes. Second, a systematic study of Court of Appeal cases identifies that misleading evidence is a prevalent and sometimes avoidable issue in England and Wales. Examples include a misinterpretation and miscommunication of the relevance, probative value, and validity of evidence. Third, to explore the misuse of evidence more in-depth, a novel conceptual framework incorporating key components of interpretations from trace scripts is developed, allowing for systematic approaches to evaluating interpretations. Fourth, this framework is applied to the interpretation of geo-forensic evidence. It is demonstrated that the approaches taken to study uncertainties and the effects of these approaches on the expression of beliefs and decision-making processes are not always sufficiently taken or transparently presented.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available