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CARE/EVIDENCE: Re S (Expert Evidence)

Date:5 MAR 2008

(Court of Appeal; Thorpe and Hughes LJJ; 5 March 2008)

When instructing experts nothing relevant could be excluded, but equally material that was unnecessary because it was irrelevant had to be rigorously excluded. Experts had to be spared files of documents that were peripheral to their essential task; the cost of experts was unnecessarily inflated by overburdening them with papers of no significance to the task. Local authorities were to abstain from sending experts material that would inevitably be perceived by the person being assessed as unfair in the sense that it was prejudicial. In the instant case the expert could be sent the father's caution for bigamy, and details of prior prosecutions for sexual offences that had resulted in the father's acquittal, but opinions and reported allegations of sexual misconduct that had not been the subject of criminal or family proceedings must be excluded.