In two recent judgments concerning the misapplication of the law regarding expert witnesses, the Supreme Court overturned the assize courts' verdicts convicting the accused of serious criminal offences.
In Andreas Nicolaou v Republic of Cyprus (Criminal Appeal 162/2014, May 2 2017) the Supreme Court restated the principle that an 'expert witness' is a scientist or specialist who presents evidence before the court only in the context of his or her scientific or specialist field and on the basis of his or her special expertise, which derives from study, training and experience. In rare cases, the expert may have no formal academic training or qualifications, but many years of accumulated experience, making him or her an expert in the particular field. In this case, the Supreme Court concluded that the first-instance court had erroneously considered a witness to be an expert and wrongfully accepted his testimony, which had led to the accused's conviction.
In Pavlos Zacharia v the Police (Criminal Appeal 151/2015, May 2 2017) the Supreme Court criticised the first-instance court for assuming the role of an expert witness, by coming to conclusions that only a properly qualified and experienced specialist in the particular field would have been capable of forming. It therefore overruled the first-instance verdict and acquitted the defendant.
The importance of the role of experts has become well established. It has been extensively analysed in common law jurisdictions over many years and is embodied in Cypriot case law. A common feature of the above cases was the Supreme Court's disagreement with the assize courts' propensity to convict defendants on the basis of inadequate evidence.
For further information on this topic please contact Marina Chrysanthou at Elias Neocleous & Co LLC by telephone (+357 25 110 110) or email ([email protected]). The Elias Neocleous & Co LLC website can be accessed at www.neo.law.