Following up on our colloquium in 2018, this event will explore two hotly contested topics of expert evidence: arson and forensic medical evidence. We are fortunate to welcome Dr Rachel Dioso-Villa from Griffith University, who has extensively studied the evidence used to support arson charges. We are also joined by Associate Professor Emma Cunliffe from the University of British Columbia. She has published widely on expert evidence law, including her 2011 book, Murder, Medicine and Motherhood, analysing the conviction of Kathleen Folbigg.

The Honourable Justice Soraya Ryan will host the event and provide commentary.


5.30pm The Honourable Justice Soraya Ryan: Opening Remarks
5.40pm Dr Rachel Dioso-Villa: Arson evidence
6.10pm Associate Professor Emma Cunliffe: Medical evidence, the Kathleen Folbigg case, and heuristics and biases
6.40pm The Honourable Justice Soraya Ryan: Reflections and Q&A
7pm Close


The Honourable Justice Soraya Ryan (Supreme Court of Queensland)

Justice Ryan was appointed a Judge of the Supreme Court of Queensland in March 2018. Prior to her appointment, Justice Ryan worked as a prosecutor at the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, as a lecturer in Evidence at The University of Queensland and as in-house defence counsel at Legal Aid Queensland. In 2010, her Honour commenced practice at the private bar, specialising in criminal law. Justice Ryan was appointed Queen's Counsel in 2013.

As a barrister her Honour served as a member of the South Pacific Region Education Committee and the Bar Practice Course Management Committee. Justice Ryan has further served as an Executive Consultant at the Queensland Law Reform Commission (QLRC) and as a part-time Commissioner at the QLRC. Since 1996 her Honour has been an author of Carter's Criminal Law of Queensland.

Dr Rachel Dioso-Villa (Senior Lecturer, Griffith University)

Dr Dioso-Villa (BSc, University of Toronto; MA, University of California Irvine; PhD, University of California Irvine) studies issues at the intersection of law and science, including wrongful convictions. Her work has appeared in several leading law journals, including the Stanford Law Review and the Griffith Law Review. She is a member of the Innocence Project at Griffith University.

Dr Dioso-Villa will discuss arson evidence, the Australian Courts’ reception of it, and wrongful convictions.

Dr Emma Cunliffe (Associate Professor, University of British Columbia)

Dr Cunliffe (BA, University of Melbourne; LLB Hons, University of Melbourne; LLM, UBC; PhD, UBC) is internationally recognised for her work on factual reasoning in criminal trials.  Her interdisciplinary scholarship applies the principles of evidence-based reasoning to expert forensic evidence.  She is the author of Murder, Medicine & Motherhood (Hart, 2011), which reconsiders the reliability of evidence that led to the convictions of Kathleen Folbigg for killing four children.

Dr Cunliffe will draw on the Folbigg trial record to illustrate the challenges of safeguarding the reliability of expert forensic medical evidence and to discuss how criminal trial processes can facilitate the operation of punitive stereotypes, to the detriment of the truth-seeking function of the trial.

Dress code

Business attire


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