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Medical experts in the family courts

Working group publish report

04 December 2019
Medical experts in the family courts

In autumn 2018, the President of the Family Division Sir Andrew McFarlane (pictured) established a working group, chaired by Mr Justice Williams, to identify the scale of the problem of medical expert witness shortages in the family courts, to look at the causes and to identify possible solutions. This working group has produced a report confirming the nature and extent of the shortages of medical and other health professional experts, identifying the causes – which, they suggest, include their treatment at court – and proposing solutions.

The group noted that it is important that experts are treated with courtesy and respect, and also suggested that family court judges should be ‘slow to criticise the professionalism and expertise of an expert publicly without good reason’. The working group also recommended that when a judge proposes giving a judgment which calls into question the professionalism or expertise of an expert, that expert should be sent a copy of the draft judgment and given the opportunity to respond before publication. A consultation on the report’s recommendations is now taking place.

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