Family Proceedings: Expert Evidence

Ministry of Justice written question – answered on 27th May 2022.

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Photo of Ellie Reeves Ellie Reeves Shadow Minister (Justice)

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what (a) qualifications and (b) verification a witness must demonstrate to present as an expert witness in the family court.

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

Section 13 of the Children and Families Act 2014 makes provision in relation to the control of expert evidence in children proceedings. An expert may only be instructed to provide evidence in proceedings relating to children with the permission of the court. This legislation is underpinned by detailed rules of court practice and procedure set out in the Family Procedure Rules 2010 and supporting Practice Directions. Practice Direction 25B includes a duty on experts to comply with specified standards, including evidencing their relevant experience and a requirement to be up-to-date with continuing professional development appropriate to their discipline and expertise. If the expert’s area is regulated by a UK statutory body, they must confirm possession of a current licence to practice or equivalent. If the area is not so regulated, then they must demonstrate appropriate qualifications and/or registration with a relevant professional body.

The President of the Family Division has published a memorandum on experts in the family court. The memorandum restates the principles applied by the Family Court when it considers whether to authorise or admit expert evidence as well as noting that experts should only be instructed when to do so is ‘necessary’ to assist the court in resolving issues justly.

The Family Justice Council has also produced guidelines on the instruction of medical experts from overseas in family cases. This sets out a series of recommendations for the process of instructing an expert and ensuring they have the appropriate experience.

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