Trust the "Experts".
Within the police and fellow agencies, common examples are:
Traffic accident investigators.
Scenes of crime officer.
Dog-handler (expertise restricted solely to the "run-time" of his/her dog's nose).
Hi-tech crime technician.
Me: when it comes to "drunkenness", we police are experts in the court's eyes.
I am always smug with superiority when I get to put an "expert" statement on one of my files. It immediately emits the signal that you have done a kick-ass investigation.
These expert witnesses are generated by filling in a form and sending it somewhere. The statements arrive anytime from eight weeks to eight months later and vary in quality from "The evidence is inconclusive" to "He's the guy wot did it." Occasionally they say, "It was actually the 'victim' who stole it". If they arrive before the court case is over you should be congratulated.
My last experience of an expert witness was an attempt to convict a drug dealer of possessing a kilo of Heroin. Being a lowly PC, I virtually promoted myself when I was put in charge of this job and went around telling everyone I met about it. The drug dealers mobile phone was seized and a form submitted asking the Hi-tech Crime Unit to have a look. This was in August 2005.
In February 2006 I thought it was a little odd I had not heard back, so I wrote and received the response, "We have a prioritising system in place. You will be informed when we are ready to receive your item." Staggered to imagine a police department with a prioritising system, I accepted this.
In May 2006 I had prepared the case file and told the court that the mobile phone evidence was "pending". I told the Hi-tech Crime guys that the court date was set for August (it was actually September).
In July I started to panic. I wrote again and phoned. This won me a telling off from the Inspector for "annoying" a Detective. I told the CPS I had no idea if we would have the evidence for trial. I forgot about the phone completely.
In August I received an email - "We are ready to receive your item". I came in on a day off to go to another station where the item was stored, where the property store guy only worked five hours a day and only when I was not on duty. I collected the item, dispatched it, received the result in two weeks: Hoorah! A video clip of the defendant wrapping up white powder in little bags.
Unfortunately this came in DVD form which the courts cannot view, so I had videos made (another week) and forwarded them to court.
September 2006. Court arrived and I even put on my tie to attend. I went straight to the CPS office - "Did you get the video?" "No." It took three phonecalls to establish that the video was in transit between two places and could not arrive until the next day. Never mind, we had the printout from the Hi-tech Crime officer describing the clip.
Unfortunately this expert had forgotten to sign the exhibit label or do a statement linking the video clip seen to the phone. In a fit of genius, the CPS suggested taking out the mobile phone itself and viewing it. We did so and found that the screen was broken (by the Hi-tech Crime Unit). Without this evidence, it seemed probable that the defendant had merely found the Heroin in the street and was keeping it to hand it into the police. As a dealer with previous convictions for possessing such substances, he well knew the dangerous possibilities should he leave the package in the street.
This was when I realised that an "expert" witness is merely someone like me who has had a few hours of dubious training, most likely done via an automated online workbook.
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