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New rules restrict experts in child care cases

Detail from medieval depiction of the Judgement of Solomon to illustrate Your Expert Witness storyRestrictions on the use of experts in family courts came into force on 31 January. It is claimed the new measures will enable child care cases are dealt with more quickly and effectively, so children and families are spared unnecessary delays and – significantly – the cost to taxpayers is reduced.

Family courts are now required to restrict expert evidence to that which is "only necessary to resolve the case" and to approve the questions that are to be put to the expert "to ensure they are focused on the determinative issues for the court".

Courts will also have to take account of specified factors before agreeing to expert witnesses reports. In care cases, those factors include the impact on the welfare of the child, the impact on the timetable for proceedings and whether the evidence which is needed is available from another source such as the local authority.

Last Updated on Friday, 01 February 2013 17:19

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APIL predicts haemorrhage of personal injury staff

Picture of a car on its roof for Your Expert Witness storyThe great majority of personal injury firms are planning to cut staff numbers in the near future unless the government pulls back from plans to reform civil litigation, according to a report in the Law Society Gazette.

It quoted a survey carried out by the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) which found that 118 of the 155 firms taking part were planning to cut their workforce this year.

According to The Gazette: "The survey formed part of APIL's full response to government plans to cut fixed fees for low-value personal injury work. The new recoverable costs for RTA claims valued under £10,000 would reduce from £1,200 to £500, whilst there are also fixed fees for claims up £25,000 and employer and public liability claims, which would be dealt with by an electronic portal for the first time."

Last Updated on Tuesday, 08 January 2013 18:40

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Apprentice solicitors on the cards from next year

Picture of Matthew Hancock for Your Expert Witness storyGraduate and post-graduate level apprenticeships will soon be available in subjects including law, accountancy and advanced engineering, following an announcement by skills minister Matthew Hancock (pictured). From next year, changes to the Specification of Apprentices Standards for England (SASE) will mean that level six and seven apprenticeships – equivalent to bachelors' and masters' degree level – are available for the first time, making vocational learning an attractive alternative to the traditional higher education route.

There are already a number of these top-level schemes in development, including in accountancy and law. BPP Law School, a subsidiary of a US private law school – is looking to develop a legal apprenticeship pathway which could be an alternative route to the legal profession and qualification as a solicitor. It is in discussion with the relevant regulatory body and sector skills council, Skills for Justice, to progress its proposals.

Last Updated on Sunday, 30 December 2012 15:33

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Awards recognise innovators in dispute resolution

Picture taken at the CEDR AwardsOn 29 November the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR) announced the winners of its biennial CEDR Awards for excellence. The awards ceremony was held at the Waldorf Hilton in London and was attended by around 200 figures from the alternative dispute resolution (ADR) and legal communities.

The panel of awards judges were The Rt Hon Lord Justice Rix, Brian Hutchinson of University College Dublin, Dr Gillian Dada of GlaxoSmithKline Plc, Guy Perring of Everything Everywhere Ltd, Professor Bryan Clark of Strathclyde University, Rhys Clift of Hill Dickinson LLP, Caroline Stroud of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, and author, CEO and entrepreneur Margaret Heffernan. Guests were also addressed by CEDR's chair, Lady Elizabeth Vallance, on the subject of dispute resolution's changing landscape.

There were six categories, with 22 finalists making the most extensive shortlist in the awards' 20 year history.

In the Excellence in ADR and Conflict category, my|deposits was recognised for its Tenant Deposit Protection Scheme, which uses an alternative dispute resolution process designed by the company.

In the ADR and Civil Justice Innovation category there were two winners. Judge Srðan Šimac of Croatia was recognised for his energetic work in bringing and popularising mediation in Croatia. He founded the Croatian Mediation Association, and has since been elected as its first president.

The Commercial Mediation Group was also given an award for their exciting, unique 'mediation purchasers' initiative.

In the ADR Champion category, Geoff Lloyd – currently with Ernst and Young – was recognised for his work on tax disputes as part of Her Majesty's Customs and Revenue Service– Geoff headed and directed a government initiative which uses mediation to free up resources tied up in tax disputes.

In the ADR Trainer category, John Brand and Felicity Steadman were recognised for their extensive work in South Africa with the African Centre for Dispute Resolution at the University of Stellenbosch.

In the Best Communication or Publication category, The Corporate Social Responsibility Initiative film series produced by the The Mossavar-Rahmani Center of Business and Government (M-RCBG), Harvard Kennedy School, USA, won in an especially strong category.

The judges also commended Henry Brown and Arthur Mariott's publication, ADR: Principles and Practice (3rd Edition), for a special mention.

The Tony Curtis Award for Young Professionals was given to Julie-Ann McCaffrey for her essay, Mediation as an Unadopted Road. The essay explores mediation in the workplace and within organisations, and suggests what we may expect to see in the future development of the field of mediation.

Dr Karl Mackie CBE, chief executive of CEDR said: "We are delighted by the innovative work that is being celebrated this evening, and the dedication shown by all of the winners and finalists to furthering the cause of alternative dispute resolution. The record number of finalists for this year's awards shows clearly how these practices are entering the mainstream, and their potential for transforming the way we approach conflict. As the diverse entrants show, the field of dispute resolution is changing to reflect the diverse needs of modern society."

Last Updated on Monday, 11 February 2013 10:21

‘Tagging’ will reveal alcohol use in care cases

Picture of SCRAMx being fitted for Your Expert Witness storyParents with alcohol problems involved in care proceedings may be fitted with ankle bracelets that continuously monitor their drinking following a trial that began this week at a London family court, the Law Society Gazette has reported.

The SCRAMx continuous alcohol monitoring device tests for alcohol secretions on the skin every 30 minutes, transmitting results to a commercial firm for analysis by experts and reporting. Dr Claire George, laboratory director at Concateno, the company behind the service, said the device will provide courts with continuous monitoring to determine if a parent is free from alcohol over time.

Hitherto, Concateno has provided expert witness reports on alcohol and drug use via its TrichoTech hair testing service.

Dr George said: "Until now most alcohol-testing focused on recent and past alcohol use, using hair-testing or random point-in-time testing, which could indicate whether a person has consumed alcohol at some point in the last few hours, days or weeks. But it cannot show where a drinking episode began, finished or provide 24/7 monitoring."

The SCRAMx, typically worn for 90 days, is in use in 48 US states. The London court pilot is due to last two to three months, and will be evaluated just after Christmas.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 23 September 2014 09:55