Ministry of Justice seeks to cut expert witness testimony

Family Law|News|May 16th 2013

Ministry of Justice signThe Ministry of Justice has announced plans to cut the amount of expert witness testimony in family courts.

The department claims too many expert witnesses are paid to provide evidence of limited value. It claims that almost 90 per cent of care cases currently include expert witness testimony. While most cases feature an average of four reports, a quarter feature five or more, and almost one in ten include seven or more.

According to a report in The Guardian, ministers want new standards which would allow evidence only from “qualified, experienced and recognised professionals”. They hope to cut the more than £50 million in legal aid currently spent on such reports every year.

They revised standards would speed up the courts and “get rid of “get rid of time-consuming evidence which adds little value in helping judges reach a decision”.

Launching a consultation on the issue, Minister of State for Justice Lord McNally said:

“Poor quality expert evidence can lead to unacceptable delays for children and their families. By putting standards in place we will ensure only the highest calibre of evidence is permitted in family proceedings. We want to ensure that evidence being put forward is more robust and that cases are resolved more quickly.”

Photo by Holly via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence

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Comments(4)

  1. Pam Arrowsmith says:

    Sub text ‘let’s save money’ ! This has nothing to do with standards of expert reports.

  2. Paul says:

    And what happens when you’ve been unfairly accused of abuse and the police and social services have carried out a so-called investigative interview of a very young child and contrived some evidence to suit the allegations.?That’s not a hypothetical nightmare because it happened to me. If it wasn’t for the intervention of a expert who knew how to properly interview a very young child I would have been stuck with these allegations for the rest of my life with a police and social services record accordingly. As it was I managed to turn the case upside down and eventually received compensation for being sectioned 47’d when it should never have happened in the first place. Just how do you manage all that on your own without an experienced forensic expert who understands young children and can provide accurate opinion on their welfare? Clowns in the police and social services can’t do the job. It’s going to be their biased reports that go to the courts and get acted on if there’s nobody better around, that’s for sure. Child safety will shortly become an explicit factor written into the Children Act – as if somehow the paramountcy principle previously excluded it.

  3. Chavez says:

    I agree with you Paul. Leaving the job to uneducated brutes who only ever look for opportunities to exercise their brutality in an official capacity is just dangerous. But I wouldn’t be too quick to trust the educated either. Not until the poison of money is purged from family law do kids have any chance of a healthy upbringing in broken Britain.

  4. Paul says:

    Dangerous stuff, I can tell you. The bloke in the police professional standards department could not have put it better; “we look for evidence to bring a charge and a child is no more than a source of evidence for us.” The difficulty with that approach is twofold. First, a child may be undergoing alienation and willing to say anything to please his main carer and police know absolutely nothing about child alienation. Second, police are not even qualified to interview let alone analyse and understand the evidence of very young children. Very young children are barely articulate and talk in riddles. You need someone with bags of hands-on child development know-how to deal with that, Moreover police will question a child in such a way as to produce the evidence they want to hear.

    And then when an expert report does come out and talks about alienation rather than child abuse, they and their counterparts in social services shrug their shoulders and walk away leaving a “child in need” without the services that moments before they claimed as their duty in law to provide.
    Pretty breathtaking really.

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