Sorry, am thinking of the Experts on Strictly… The Government have determined the standards for expert reports in care proceedings. From the press releases, you would think that these standards would transform the expert reports that the independent study showed were pretty ghastly and not fit for purpose in a significant number of cases, particularly given the cost to the taxpayer and the delay for children that obtaining them often caused.
As usual with modern government, you can find press releases and news reports of the launch – plenty of stuff saying how marvellous the new arrangements are or will be, but finding the actual substance underneath all of the fluff is always difficult. That’s what I’m here for
The link is here: – https://consult.justice.gov.uk/digital-communications/expert-witnesses
But as the standards are so skimpy (sorry, thorough, but condensed into short, practical guidance) I have just set them out in full here.
[I wrote on this before at the time of the consultation, and am disappointed to see that the formulation of ‘has been active’ rather than ‘is active’ survived to the final draft. I wrote then, and I re-emphasise now, that I am aware of experts who have done nothing but Court work in the last two decades if not longer, and they still meet this test because ‘has been active’ doesn’t even have a ‘recently’ caveat. One might also think, given how fast the law on adoption has been developing that the expert might be obliged to keep up to date with the legal requirements before recommending options]
The Final Recommended Standards
‘Standards for Expert Witnesses in Children’s Proceedings in the family court’
Subject to any order made by the court, expert witnesses involved in family proceedings (involving children) in England and Wales, whatever their field of practice or country of origin, must comply with the standards (1-11)
1. The expert’s area of competence is appropriate to the issue(s) upon which the court has identified that an opinion is required, and relevant experience is evidenced in their CV.
2. The expert has been active in the area of work or practice, (as a practitioner or an academic who is subject to peer appraisal), has sufficient experience of the issues relevant to the instant case, and is familiar with the breadth of current practice or opinion.
3. The expert has working knowledge of the social, developmental, cultural norms and accepted legal principles applicable to the case presented at initial enquiry, and has the cultural competence skills to deal with the circumstances of the case.
4. The expert is up-to-date with Continuing Professional Development appropriate to their discipline and expertise, and is in continued engagement with accepted supervisory mechanisms relevant to their practice.
5. If the expert’s current professional practice is regulated by a UK statutory body (See Appendix 1) they are in possession of a current licence to practise or equivalent.
6. If the expert’s area of professional practice is not subject to statutory registration (e.g. child psychotherapy, systemic family therapy, mediation, and experts in exclusively academic appointments) the expert
should demonstrate appropriate qualifications and/ or registration with a relevant professional body on a case by case basis. Registering bodies usually provide a code of conduct and professional standards and should
be accredited by the Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care (See Appendix 2). If the expertise is academic in nature (e.g. regarding evidence of cultural influences) then no statutory registration is required (even if this includes direct contact or interviews with individuals) but consideration should be given to appropriate professional accountability.
7. The expert is compliant with any necessary safeguarding requirements, information security expectations, and carries professional indemnity insurance.
8. If the expert’s current professional practice is outside the UK they can demonstrate that they are compliant with the FJC ‘Guidelines for the instruction of medical experts from overseas in family cases’
9. The expert has undertaken appropriate training, updating or quality assurance activity –
including actively seeking feedback from cases in which they have provided evidence21
– relevant to the role of expert in the family courts in England and Wales within the last year.
10. The expert has a working knowledge of, and complies with, the requirements of Practice Directions relevant to providing reports for and giving evidence to the family courts in England and Wales. This includes compliance with the requirement to identify where their opinion on the instant case lies in relation to other accepted mainstream views and the overall spectrum of opinion in the UK.
Expectations in relation to experts’ fees
11. The expert should state their hourly rate in advance of agreeing to accept instruction, and give an estimate of the number of hours the report is likely to take. This will assist the legal representative to apply expeditiously to the Legal Aid Agency if prior authority is to be sought in a publicly funded case.
[I’m afraid, channelling Mr Revell-Horwood, this is at best a Four. A-bys-mal]