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CARE/EXPERT EVIDENCE: Re J (Application for a Shadow Expert)

Date:22 JAN 2008

(Family Division; HHJ Anthony Hughes sitting as a judge of the High Court; 22 January 2008)

In a care case based on a suspected non-accidental injury to the child, the judge refused the father permission to instruct a 'shadow expert'; the intention had been that the shadow expert would remain anonymous, would assist in analysing existing expert evidence and would give guidance in framing questions for cross-examination, but would not give oral evidence or provide a report. While there might have been cases where the instruction of a shadow expert had been countenanced by judges of first instance in the High Court, in this instance the father's application had been flawed both in principle and on the facts. The process envisaged by the father would involve the instruction of an expert with an overriding duty to the court expressing an opinion to the person instructing him concerning the central issues before the court, an opinion entirely relevant to those issues; it would be wholly wrong for such opinions to be withheld from the court.