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President explains judiciary’s expectations of expert witnesses in family law cases

Sir Andrew McFarlane addresses Bond Solon Experts Conference

The President of the Family Division, Sir Andrew McFarlane, has delivered the keynote address to the Bond Solon Experts Conference.

Sir Andrew, describing the role of expert witnesses in children cases, said:

"Coming back now [to the front line of litigation after seven years as an appeal court judge] ... I have been struck by accounts from courts all over the country as to the greater difficulty that now exists in finding experts who are prepared to take on instruction in a family case. This is apparently a particularly acute problem in the field of paediatric radiology, which, as you will imagine, is a core discipline in many child abuse cases, and (even more worryingly) in the field of paediatrics itself.

"Having now become aware of the problem, I intend to do what I can to understand why this has occurred. The provision of high quality professional expertise, where a court has held that such expertise is "necessary" so that the issues relating to a child's future can be determined 'justly', is plainly essential. If the tightening up of the regime for instructing experts, in combination with a freeze in the rate of payment, has resulted in the supply of expertise drying up, then these elements in the operation of the family justice system may need to be looked at again."

Sir Andrew noted that "there is some ground for hope that the environment in which you may be giving your evidence in, say, three years' time will be very different and markedly more beneficial to you than the current one."

The President went on to consider the role of the expert and to explain what the judiciary expects of experts.

He concluded by describing the radical 'Reform' programme designed to modernise all aspects of the work of all courts and tribunals.

For the President's speech, click here.

11/11/18