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Capacity and Comprehension of Mathematical Reasoning by Counsel and Courts

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FOSW01 - The nature of questions arising in court that can be addressed via probability and statistical methods

This presentation begins by questioning the extent to which courts can comprehend, so as to meaningfully address, evidential and trial questions from a statistical/probabilistic method. Scientific evidence is increasingly used in trials, meaning there is a growing need for courts and judicial officers to understand the expression of the scientific method. This presentation will explore the extent to which the courts currently comprehend mathematical rationalisation of evidence; comparing Australia and the United Kingdom.   The presentation will examine the nature of legal education as the cornerstone and building block of litigation capacities (at least, for lawyers), both pre and post admission. There is limited scope within common law legal education for preparing future litigators for mathematical approaches to evidence. Except “experience”, there is limited continuing training for lawyers/judges post admission. Current reforms to legal education within the tertiary sector and legal profession will be analysed in the context of the potential for reforms to promote interdisciplinary capacities with respect to litigious proof.   The presentation will discuss the current and long sustained fallibilities of litigation relying on subjective experience based decision making. Courts in Australia have often criticised the Bayesian method and have shown hesitation to move away from a legal system based on “human” experience and “human” reasoning. Mathematical approaches to proof will be considered from the perspective of their effect for common law notions of the fair trial and, primarily, the participants to be involved in the delivery of a fair trial. Modernisation of litigation services (through electronic and database resourcing) equally requires consideration of frameworks for statistical/mathematical evaluation of evidence and, necessarily, who is best placed to develop and implement such systems. Unless legal education is altered, modern litigation may decreasingly rely on the traditional skill sets of jurists, jurors and lawyers.   This presentation examines the merits of combining a statistical analysis of separate pieces of evidence into an ultimate probability of guilt, as against retention of tested methods for dispute resolution.

This talk is part of the Isaac Newton Institute Seminar Series series.

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