The Royal Society (Sir Isaac Newton, past President) has just issued a new report, Brain Waves 4: Neuroscience and the law, calling for professionals at all stages of the legal system who might encounter neuroscience to "understand some of the key principles on which it is based; the limitations to what studies can tell us; and some of the generic challenges of its application." To that end, it makes five recommendations:
Recommendation 1: An international meeting should take place every three years to bring together those working across the legal system with experts in neuroscience and related disciplines. The aim of this meeting should be to discuss the latest advances in areas at the intersection of neuroscience and the law to identify practical applications that need to be addressed.
Recommendation 2: The systems used by legal professionals to identify, access and assess the quality of expertise in specific scientific areas should be reviewed by the judiciary and the Bar Council to ensure the latest advice is made available. This should be carried out in consultation with learned societies such as the British Neuroscience Association, and other specialist societies as appropriate.
Recommendation 3: University law degrees should incorporate an introduction to the basic principles of how science is conducted and to key areas of science such as neuroscience and behavioural genetics, to strengthen lawyers’ capacity to assess the quality of new evidence. Conversely, undergraduate courses in neuroscience should include the societal applications of the science.
Recommendation 4: Relevant training should be made available where necessary for judges, lawyers and probation officers. This should count towards Continual Professional Development (CPD) requirements for lawyers, and for judges might be administered through the Judicial College’s programme of seminars.
Recommendation 5: Further research is needed on areas including:
• The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) should encourage neuropathology studies to characterise Non-Accidental Head Injury (NAHI) and distinguish it from accidental or natural causes.
• The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) should encourage studies into the relative efficacy of different models of risk assessment in the context of probation, and a possible role for neuroscience to be used in combination with existing approaches.
HT: Science Insider