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Expert Witness Legal News

Pre-recording of vulnerable witness evidence to be allowed – 25 years on from its proposal

Picture of Lord Judge for Your Expert Witness storyThe most vulnerable victims are to be protected from the trauma of appearing in court, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling announced today.

On 11 June Justice Secretary Chris Grayling announced that, for the first time, young and vulnerable victims who have survived the most horrific crimes will be able to pre-record both their evidence and any cross-examination, rather than having to suffer the trauma of appearing in court.

The new system will be tested in three areas – Leeds, Liverpool and Kingston-upon-Thames – with the intention of rolling it out more widely if it proves a success.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 12 June 2013 15:58

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Two jailed for VAT fraud

Picture of HMRC office for your Expert Witness storyTwo court cases at opposite ends of the country have resulted in jail terms for VAT fraud. On 16 May a Surrey man was jailed for 12 months for attempting to pocket nearly £47,000 in fraudulent VAT repayments.

John Patrick Cahill was investigated by HMRC following suspicions about the accuracy of VAT refund claims he submitted between January 2011 and January 2012. These claims were monitored as part of a London fraudulent repayment tax taskforce launched in 2011.

Taskforce enquiries revealed that his Mayfair business address was simply a mail-drop service. Investigations showed that although Cahill claimed to trade as an energy efficiency inspector his company made no sales for the period.

Last Updated on Sunday, 26 May 2013 17:16

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High Court rules in favour of Barnet outsourcing

Photo of Barnet the Guinea Pig for Your Expert Witness storyOn 29 April the High Court ruled that a London council could proceed with its plan to outsource a number of its services to private companies – including Capita.

Lord Justice Underhill dismissed an application for judicial review brought by a disabled resident. The judge ruled that the application was out of time; however he did also rule on the substantive issues. One of the grounds claimed was that the council had failed to carry out an impact assessment under the Equality Act 2010.

Lord Underhill said: “The judgment as to whether the provisions of the contract adequately address the interests of groups with a protected characteristic is for the council, and not the court, to make; and its assessment could only be challenged if it fell outside the wide discretion which it enjoys.”

Last Updated on Monday, 29 April 2013 17:13

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Court rules against public funding of expert report in a family case

Experts in family cases must be especially careful to ensure their fees will be paid before accepting instructions. The funding of expert witnesses in family cases reached a stalemate this week after the High Court ruled that the Legal Aid Agency (LAA) - formerly the Legal Services Commission - was not obliged to cover the full cost of an expert witness.  After intervening in the case, the Law Society reacted with disappointment at the ruling. The LSC is not normally obliged to fully fund the cost of an expert witness where the child is legally aided and the parents are unable to afford the costs.

Law Society president Lucy Scott-Montcrieff said: "The LSC's position simply results in deadlock. The court has first to decide that an expert report is necessary, not just desirable, to help it decide a child's future, but unless someone is able to pay - in this case the legal aid budget - there cannot be a report. The court's ruling does not address that impasse, and for that reason it is disappointing for those children who find themselves in the family court."

Following the family legal aid changes implemented last week, more cases will appear where children alone are legally aided, said Scott-Montcrieff. The High Court judgment in R (JG) v The Legal Services Commission followed the refusal of the LSC to pay more than one third of an expert's fees.  The LSC's decision was based on section 22 (4) of the Access to Justice Act, which states that costs cannot be awarded against one party simply because they benefit from legal aid. "Reports required from the court for the child's benefit should be paid for by the legal aid budget where the parents are unable to contribute: it should not be enough to argue, as the LSC did, that the parents also benefit from a report."

Experts should ensure their terms and conditions cover the possibility of non-payment by the LAA and there is still recourse to the instructing solicitors.

Last Updated on Thursday, 11 April 2013 11:50

Children face uncertain future following High Court decision, Law Society warns

Image of Blind Justice for Your Expert witness storyThe Law Society has warned that children caught up in family law cases will face "alarming uncertainty about their future" because of a stalemate over the funding of expert witnesses in such cases.

The High Court ruled on 10 April that the Legal Aid Agency – formerly the Legal Services Commission (LSC) – is not normally obliged to fully fund the cost of an expert witness report ordered by a judge in the family court, where only the child is legally aided and the parents are unable to afford the costs of a report.

The judgment in the case of the R (JG) v The Legal Services Commission followed the LSC's refusal to pay more than one-third of an expert's fees in a case in which the County Court had previously determined that the parents were not able to pay the other two-thirds. The LSC's decision was based on section 22 (4) of the Access to Justice Act which states that costs cannot be awarded against one party simply because they benefit from legal aid. The Law Society, which has expressed disappointment at the decision, had intervened in the case to ensure that the court was aware of the difficulties that the LSC's decision was likely to cause.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 10 April 2013 15:56

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