The recent Ministry of justice reforms study has found almost half of expert witnesses are unqualified and most do very little other than rake in large custody trial fees.
The report findings were that more than nine out of ten child care cases involve four expert reports, One in five expert witnesses do not have any qualifications, children complain about having to tell their stories repeatedly and amother involved in family court proceedings told how a psychiatrist who had never seen her wrote a 14-page report on her and her family and that the day after the psychiatrist signed off his report he was suspended by the General Medical Council for a separate offence. Despite this fact the report was still used asadmissibleevidence.
The expert witnesses used in life-changing custody battles were often psychologists or independent social workers, often causing misery for children left stuck in care waiting for reports to be completed.
The report found that in an astonishing 92 per cent of care cases, on average almost four reports per case were used.
The future reforms will ensure that experts are only permitted when necessary to ‘resolve the case justly, taking account of factors including the impact on the welfare of the child’. Taking this into account it is predicted that the number of reports will fall dramatically in the future.
Experts are often appointed to assess the suitability of a parent or parents to continue to look after their child in care proceedings brought by the local council. They are also regularly used in access cases after the separation of a child's parents.
Thousands of children have their whole futures decided in the family courts every year and because of strict rules relating to confidentiality within the family court system, often little is revealed about what happens once the court closes its doors. Where these cases are often unable to be reported on may have led to unqualified experts regularly practising on many cases without detection.
Sebastian Giles, Expert Witness Today