In court cases evidence is not admissible unless it is based on fact. There is no room for opinions. The exception to this rule is expert evidence that allows evidence of certain persons that have specialised knowledge to be admitted.
Mr Honeysett was convicted of armed robbery at the Narabeen Sands Hotel based on the opinion of expert evidence. There was CCTV footage of the robbery that showed three offenders that each had on long dark clothing and disguised their faces with ‘white pillows or T-shirts wrapped around’ their faces.
The Prosecution managed to have admitted into evidence, over the objection of the accused, the evidence of a Professor of Anatomy, Maciej Henneberg from the University of Adelaide.
Professor Henneberg gave evidence from viewing the CCTV footage and also seeing photographs of the accused when he was in a Police cell, that included that there were eight features that he could see from the CCTV footage that included that he was adult male, had a skinny body build, medium body height, short hair and the shape of his head. The Professor used medical terms to describe the above characteristics. The Professor came to the view that the accused shared those eight characteristics. The accused asserted that the Professor’s opinion was not expert evidence, but rather an opinion that anybody could have made.
The High Court held that the evidence of Professor Henneberg was not based wholly or substantially on his knowledge of anatomy and that his opinion of the characteristics of the offender was based on his subjective impression of what he viewed on the video and as such was not expert evidence and not admissible.
On that basis the appeal was upheld and a new trial was ordered, which will be without the evidence of Professor Henneberg.
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