Paediatricians as expert witnesses in the family courts in England and Wales - standards, competencies and expectations
The joint Family Justice Coundil (FJC) and Ministry of Justice Standards for expert witnesses in the family courts in England and Wales forms the basis of an agreed minimum standard for all stakeholders to be guided by, and to adhere to, whenever instructing or being instructed as expert witnesses in family proceedings.
This guidance is a companion document to the generic expert witness standards set out in Part 25 of the Family Procedure Rules (FPR). The guidance provides information to all stakeholders regarding the use of paediatricians as expert witnesses and directs the reader to discipline specific information relating to regulation, codes of conduct, competencies, supervision and quality of service.
The guidance was written by a joint RCPCH and FJC working group and was published in August 2018.
Acting as an expert or professional witness – guidance for healthcare professionals
This guidance is aimed specifically at healthcare clinical professionals who provide an expert opinion or act as professional or expert witnesses in courts or tribunals. It is produced by clinical professional organisations and sets out the standards and conduct expected of a clinician acting in the role of a witness.
The guidance, which follows a recommendation in Sir Norman Williams' Review of Gross Negligence Manslaughter in Healthcare, has been endorsed by nine healthcare professional bodies on behalf of over 70 separate healthcare professional organisations representing doctors, dentists, nurses, midwives, pharmacists, allied health professionals, optometrists and healthcare scientists.
The General Medical Council, Nursing and Midwifery Council, Health and Care Professions Council, General Pharmaceutical Council, General Dental Council and General Chiropractic Council have all confirmed that the advice set out in this guidance is consistent with their standards and guidance as regulatory bodies.
RCPCH were members of the working group that developed the guidance.
Medical Experts report
In Autumn 2018, The President of the Family Division, Sir Andrew McFarlane established a working group 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. Mr Justice Williams was appointed to Chair the Group with representation from the legal profession and Medical Royal Colleges and other interested parties.
This report makes 22 recommendations aimed at reducing expert shortages. Some of these recommendations include the development of online training resources, engagement of professional bodies, amendments to legal aid guidance in payment provision, as well as the requirement for greater efficiency in court paperwork and processes, and better local and regional co-ordination.