Ensuring the Reliability of Forensic Science in New Zealand Criminal Courts

This project will evaluate the state of forensic-science evidence in New Zealand criminal courts to ascertain whether the Evidence Act 2006 is sufficient to ensure the validity and reliability of scientific evidence used in criminal trials in New Zealand.

About the project

This project involves: (1) a review of previous studies relating to forensic practice; (2) a review of expert testimony in cases involving forensic-science evidence in criminal trials; (3) a review of existing caselaw in New Zealand relating to the admissibility of scientific evidence in criminal prosecutions; (4) identification of the criteria by which the scientific validity of forensic-science evidence should be judged, particularly relating to pattern-matching disciplines; (5) application of those criteria to the forensic-science disciplines in regular use in criminal investigations and prosecutions in New Zealand; and (6) generating recommendations to strengthen forensic science and promote its more rigorous use in the courtroom.

The project will generate a set of findings and recommendations directed to the New Zealand Law Commission and the newly created Criminal Cases Review Commission to strengthen the judicial screening of forensic-science evidence, deliver a series of scholarly articles that identify the concrete factors that courts should consider in determining the reliability, and therefore admissibility, of forensic-science evidence, and generate training materials for criminal practitioners in identifying and challenging invalid forensic science methodologies and practices.

Grant amount

$17,437 between September 2022 – March 2023.


About Associate Professor Carrie Leonetti

A/Prof Leonetti is an internationally recognised expert on the intersection of science and the law. She is particularly interested in the role that culture, social psychology, and cognitive processes play in the definition, detection, and remedy of miscarriages of justice in the criminal-justice and family-law systems. Her professional profile can be found at: https://profiles.auckland.ac.nz/carrie-leonetti/about.


Carrie Leonetti

 Associate Professor, University of Auckland School of Law