n Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology - The criminologist as an expert witness in court

Volume 19, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1012-8093



In this article the place and function of the criminologist as an expert witness in Criminal Courts are scrutinised and critically evaluated. Firstly, the terms forensic expert, criminology, forensic criminology and criminalistics are clarified. Subsequently, in order to determine the place of the criminologist as an expert witness in court, the scope and expertise of related social scientists are depicted. It is also pointed out that, in order to gain professional status in court, criminologists should register with a professional board, which should be established to regulate standards, develop an ethical code and determine the fees for the various services rendered by them. This is followed by an explanation of the admissibility of expert opinion in court. The major part of the article is devoted to the requirements with which criminological evaluation reports should comply. Criticism has been levelled at the way criminologists compile their pre-sentence reports. For this very reason, the various components of the report are discussed in detail. Particular attention is paid to victim impact statements as part of the evaluation report. Furthermore, preparation for the court and presenting the pre-sentence report in court are discussed. Finally, criticism levelled at criminologists as expert witnesses in court is debated.

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