January 23, 2023

Expert testimony? That’s a matter of opinion

When it comes to Cell Site evidence presentation in court, the prosecution needs that 'expert' knowledge to minimise the risk of a defence team making a successful challenge

It is five years since the R v Calland ruling but it is only now that defence solicitors are realising what a fruitful area of attack Cell Site analysis can be in defending their clients. Change can be a long time coming.

In R v Calland the court went into detail as to what constituted expert witness testimony. Whereas previously presentations showing the route of travel using cell site data might not seem likely to fall into expert witness territory, R v Calland turned that on its head. It quite clearly stated that as the jury is being asked to judge this information in deciding guilt and this requires opinion, it falls directly into the realms of expert witness testimony.

So, we are now in a situation where on the one side we have defence counsel recognising that this is a very valid arena for challenge; and on the other, we have the prosecution needing to move quickly to negate the risks involved, preferably by removing any grounds for challenge.

At CCL, we have one of the UK’s most highly regarded Cell Site analysis teams with fully accredited expert witnesses’ status. They are recognised as leaders in this particular area of opinion evidence, with a number of peer-reviewed academic papers published and an extensive contribution to the Forensic Science Regulator's new Code of Practice.

It's a team that serves the criminal justice system and as such it is keen to ensure that all parties, from Heads of Crime, SIOs, and the CPS to criminal defence solicitors and defence counsel, are equally fully briefed on current thinking, best practice and obligations around cell site evidence and court presentation.

We regularly deliver workshops and CPD-qualifying sessions to SIOs, CPS, barristers, solicitors and law societies. If you’d like to arrange one for your team, then please contact Shane Barnes.

You can read more of Matt's work from previous papers on Cell site analysis: Roles and interpretation, Historic cell site analysis: Overview of principles and survey methodologies.

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