Choice of expert

In all approval applications in any children’s court case in Scotland, you must ensure that any expert witness sought:

  • represents an established and respectable body of relevant professional opinion
  • is appropriately qualified and competent to address the relevant issues
  • is appropriately informed as to the facts
  • will address the relevant issues in any report they will produce.

You should make sure you identify an expert skilled in the specific field of the expert evidence in question.

You should consider whether your proposed expert has reached an appropriate level of expertise to consider the particular case.

Before authorising the use of an expert based some distance from the court, we must be satisfied that no comparable witness is available nearer to the court in question unless it has been agreed by the sheriff/judge in advance that they will hear their evidence remotely.

Expert’s qualifications, experience and quality

It is ultimately your responsibility to be assured of the quality of the work being undertaken and of the qualifications and experience of the expert you wish to instruct.

With regard to medical and healthcare professionals, registers of the General Medical Council and the Health and Care Professions Council will both provide confirmation of appropriate registration and will disclose any specialist registration that the expert holds.

We offer below a number of valuable points on how to increase the likelihood of receiving a good quality expert witness report (based on research conducted by the University of Central Lancashire):

  • experts should be registered to practice with the Health Professionals Council and have full membership of an applied division of the British Psychological Society (i.e. clinical, forensic, educational, health, counselling)
  • instruction of experts should be restricted to those currently engaged in practice which is not solely limited to the provision of court reports
  • the instruction should be clear that it is for the expert to conduct all aspects of the work and not graduate psychologists or assistants who are not regarded as being appropriately qualified
  • reports that fail to attend to the instruction questions should have their costs reviewed accordingly.

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