Reply to post: Re: Something something pun about Horizon

Japan's ubiquitous convenience stores now serving up privacy breaches

bazza Silver badge

Re: Something something pun about Horizon

WRT the Post Office scandal, whilst Fujitsu's software wasn't the greatest, the largest part of the blame for the wrongful convictions lies with those too lazy to check the software's reporting, and presenting said data as "fact". In my view there were a number of failings. The Post Office didn't verify its evidence. The Courts did not force the Post Office to verify its evidence, repeatedly allowing convictions based on a single unverified source of evidence.

In my opinion, whilst Fujitsu is part of this chain of failure, the Courts' failure to understand or even inquire independently of the quality of the evidence being presented to them is the ultimate real problem. If courts are unable to determine sworn bullshit from sworn fact, you cannot have a fair trial.

The inquiry into this is still going on. However, part of the problem with the inquiry is that it is a former judge running it; one wonders how open he is to examining the role of the judiciary in admitting the evidence in the first place. Historically, when "science" has gone wrong in court cases, they're not exactly keen to examine why. There's repeatedly been miscarriages of justice due to "trusted experts" turning out to be bullshitters - the Post Office scandal, the role of Roy Meadows in the Munchausen-by-proxy baby deaths wrongful convictions. Years ago there was even a rape conviction that hinged solely on DNA evidence; the conviction was overturned, because the convicted man was wealthy enough to commission his own forensic test that showed that, yes, he was a close match but definitely not a perfect match; he won at appeal. That case resulted in a change in the standards required for DNA evidence. The point is, the initial standard that he successfully discredited had been set by "trusted experts", who turned out to have been bullshitting, and had resulted in wrongful convictions.


For DNA evidence, worse still, there's been proven cases of genetic chimerics in the US courts - a child care fraud case was overturned when it turned out a woman's reproductive organs really did have a different genetic make up to the rest of her body.

Science has no idea how common this trait is. There is very little data, so it is considered rare. But again, it's bullshitting; medical science has no evidence for how rare or common it is, and adopts the view "we've not seen it much, so it must be rare". However, you cannot really systematically measure the occurrence of this condition without detailed examination of a large number of corpses, cm cube by cm cube, which is not something that's really possible to do. So far as I know, no one has ever done a systematic study.

So, with every piece of DNA evidence - whether accusatory or exonerationary, there is doubt; we don't really know if there is a reliable read across from the DNA profile derived from, say, a mouth swab to the DNA profile of samples from other parts of the body. It's assumed to be reliable. Yet this doubt is not explained to courts, or investigators, and this too has (in the US) resulted in wrongful convictions that were very difficult to overturn.

In that particular case, it was overturned by means of having a court official witness the birth of the woman's second child, and a DNA analysis of that child and the mother to prove the genetic discrepancy. The Judge in the case ended up saying that he now had no idea whether he could ever trust DNA evidence ever again.

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