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Restrictions on the instruction of experts in family proceedings

Date:22 AUG 2012

Jenny Wiltshire

Managing Partner, Hickman and Rose

Ann Thompson

Solicitor, Goodman Ray:

The landmark judgment in Islington London Borough Council v Al Alas, Wray and Al Alas-Wray (Through her Children's Guardian) [2012] EWHC 865 (Fam), [2012] 2 FLR (forthcoming) highlighted the importance of expert evidence in the Family Courts. Experts from both the UK and overseas played a huge part in this case in interpreting the science. Experts from overseas were particularly commended in the judgment. These experts were able to bring a fresh perspective to the proceedings, challenging the preconceptions of some UK based experts.Yet guidelines from the Family Justice Council concerning the instruction of overseas experts and the implementation of the Family Justice Review recommendations may place obstacles in the path of family practitioners and limit their ability to instruct experts.

The authors are concerned that these reforms will serve to dilute the pool of available experts and impact on the quality of expert evidence presented in the family courts. This is especially an issue in cases of alleged non accidental head injury where the science is complex, controversial and continually evolving. The difficulties are compounded by the reduced expert funding, Norgrove Recommendations and the pressure to hear cases within a reduced time frame. There is a real risk that miscarriages of justice will result.

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