Experts in family cases
As part of the programme of reform of the Family Justice system, the Government has just announced a consultation on how professional standards of those giving expert testimony in family cases might be improved.
The Consultation Paper states:
‘Experts play an important role in assisting the court by providing advice on matters requiring specialist expertise outside the knowledge of the court. In family proceedings relating to children, they may come from many different professions and disciplines including doctors, nurses, psychologists and independent social workers.
‘The standards in this paper are a response to a recommendation made by the Family Justice Review that standards should be developed for expert witnesses in the family courts.’
What the paper proposes are ‘high level’ standards to which those called as experts in family cases would have to agree to. As the paper says:
‘The Ministry of Justice proposes that, in publicly funded family proceedings relating to children, solicitors may only instruct experts who meet the relevant standards. In both publicly and privately funded cases, the expectation is that parties will provide sufficient information to satisfy the court not only that an expert is needed, but also that the proposed expert meets the standards.’
The standards, which have been drawn up by the Family Justice Council, cover areas including:
- the expert’s area of competence and its relevance to the particular case;
- maintaining expertise through Continuing Professional Development activities;
- statutory registration or membership of an appropriate professional body;
- applying the standards to overseas experts;
- compliance with the Family Procedure Rules and Practice Directions;
- seeking feedback from solicitors and the courts; and
- good practice in relation to fees in publicly funded cases
The Consultation runs until 18 July 2013. The Government hopes they will become effective later in 2013.
For more detail go to https://consult.justice.gov.uk/digital-communications/expert-witnesses/consult_view