This news article discusses the acquittal of two men in an art fraud case involving Brett Whiteley.
Whilst the mechanics of the crown decision to withdraw their case at the appeal will no doubt be the subject of some discussion in Melbourne, there is some clear reference to the question of the use of expertise, most particularly 'art expertise'. It is a vexing question in an area where expertise is no doubt quite specific .... an expert on Brett Whiteley may not be an expert on Picasso.
If the court could answer the question themselves, then there would be no need to ask anyone else, but this is not the case. If the court requires a question to be answered in search of the truth, then they need to be presented with evidence from a reliable source. If that source is required to use experience as compared to empirical / statistical data, then the court is entitled to hear that evidence, understand the arguements for and against it, weight it appropriately, and form a conclusion.
This is a very interesting discussion for the world of art expertise, where the capacity to build empirical data of validity would be a difficult task.
Of course, the main contention in this acquittal was the failure of the crown to address the question of the veracity of a 1989 carbon copy consignment note. Documentary evidence is our business and an examination of this document may / may not reveal substantial evidence in response to the question.
Further reading on the circumstances around the consignment note are found in the article below: