Having been in the first cohort of students allowed to undertake ‘double degrees’ in Australia, I commenced my studies in the Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Laws programmes with an open mind. Too enamoured by the fact that both Law and Science are structured enquiries, bound by rules, but continually changing, I was loathe to choose between the two. I hedged my bets for three years, before diverting off into a fulltime Honours year in Chemistry under the supervision of Prof Janice Aldrich-Wright, returning thereafter to complete my remaining years in Law, including Honours, at the Australian National University.
Towards the end, I happened upon the opportunity to undertake a PhD with Assoc. Prof Eric Alfred Magnusson (1933-2009), a scholar and a gentleman, with a deep knowledge of Science (two PhDs!) and a passion for communicating it – especially to hapless students, lawyers and juries. I commenced my PhD with Eric and completed it under the supervision of Dr James Robertson, at that time Head of Forensic Services for the Australian Federal Police.
My research delved into the world of criminal trials & expert evidence, allowing me to interview nigh on every forensic scientist in Australia about their experiences in and out of court. The time to do this arose almost solely because it took an inordinate amount of time (…years…) to obtain permission to study real jury trials and interview real jurors about their comprehension & use of expert evidence in criminal trials. This experience changed the direction of my research and placed me firmly in the camp of wanting to learn everything I can about law in practise, especially criminal trials, & especially expert evidence.
And that is what I have been doing ever since… Helped along the way by working as an Associate to Chief Justice Terence Higgins in the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory, teaching law at the University of New South Wales (Australia); the University of Strathclyde (Scotland); and Glasgow Caledonian University; and working as a scientific & legal analyst, and more latterly as Education & External Relations Manager, at The Forensic Institute, here in Scotland.