Experts Will Be Required To Have Recent Experience Of Relevant Issues
New national standards have been introduced to family court cases to increase the quality of expert witnesses and to speed up legal proceedings.
The new measures, which were implemented on 1st October, mean that experts must have knowledge appropriate to the court case, they must have been active in the area of work and have experience of the issues relevant to the case.
Experts permitted to give evidence in Family Court will also need to be regulated or accredited to a registered body and comply with safeguarding requirements.
Family Justice Minister Simon Hughes said that the new national standards will put children at the centre of the family justice system and reduce the delays that can have a damaging impact on young people involved in court cases.
The standards were developed in conjunction with the Family Justice Council and follows new laws implemented in April 2014 which means that expert witness evidence will only be commissioned where a judge considers it necessary to resolve cases.
We welcome and support the inclusion of these new requirements that will ensure expert witnesses meet exacting professional standards. It is another important step to ensure expert evidence is only admitted where it is necessary for the fair conclusion of the issue.
“It is essential expert evidence is of the highest standard and that the court can rely upon an expert to have the right experience and that they can translate their particular expertise into the appropriate cultural and social context of the case.
“However, the new standards need to be implemented carefully, as the number of experts willing to undertake work in the Family Court is declining and it is often not possible to get an expert from the desired pool to complete an assessment or report within the stringent court timetables.
“Therefore, it is important the measures are balanced, preventing the use of certain experts, but enabling new experts to enter the arena to provide evidence in areas they are well-versed in.”
Hayley Trim - Partner