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Expert Witness - Immunity from suit

Date:30 OCT 2006

Judgment was given by the Court of Appeal in General Medical Council v Meadow Attorney General Intervening) [2006] EWCA Civ 1390 on 26 October 2006. This was the General Medical Council's appeal from the decision of Collins J on 17 February 2006 (see Meadow v GMC [2006] 1 FLR 1161; [2006] Fam Law 354, May issue) that an expert witness should, with certain exceptions, be immune from regulatory proceedings in respect of his evidence. Sir Anthony Clarke MR, Auld and Thorpe LJJ in the Court of Appeal decided unanimously that the immunity from civil suit a witness enjoyed in respect of evidence he gave in court does not extend to immunity for an expert witness from disciplinary proceedings by his professional body. However, by a majority (Auld and Thorpe LJJ) the Court of Appeal upheld Collins J's decision in Sir Roy Meadow's particular case, stating that he was undoubtedly guilty of some professional misconduct because his preparation for and presentation of evidence at the murder trial fell below the standards required of him by his profession: he misunderstood the statistics and in giving evidence did not draw attention to the fact that he was not an expert in statistics. That did not, however, justify a finding of serious professional misconduct. For the full news story, and in particular Thorpe LJ's comments on experts and the family justice system, see December [2006] Fam Law.