Lady Hale lecture looks at use of empirical research in justice system
President of the Supreme Court, Lady Hale, has delivered a lecture on the use of empirical research in the justice system.
The lecture, entitled “Challenges in the justice system and the contribution of empirical research”, was the inaugural Nuffield Foundation Annual Lecture and was delivered on 14 May at UCL Faculty of Laws in London.
Lady Hale said: “There is nothing problematic about using empirical findings to help the lawmakers decide what the law should be: those devising and promoting law reform proposals can make use of whatever reliable information they see fit when trying to work out how the law might be improved. Lawmakers may choose to give greater weight to other considerations, such as the results of their much less scientific consultations or their impressions of the weight of public opinion, but equally they can choose to give more weight to the science.”“
She added: “But we have often struggled with how empirical findings can be incorporated into our decision-making in individual cases. It is acceptable, indeed expected, that expert witnesses will make use of the relevant science when offering their opinions to the court. There is rather less acceptance of other professionals, such as social workers, doing so. And in either case, the empirical evidence has to be married with clinical or ‘hands-on’ professional experience and judgment. But it is much more difficult for the other people in the system, and in particular perhaps the lawyers and the judges, to know what use they should be making of this material.”