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What is an Expert Witness?

Supporting Justice

When expert evidence is called for in a court of law…it’s time to call in the expert witness.

In so many trials, it is the carefully considered evidence of expert witnesses that can ensure a just outcome.

The Expert Witness in Court

The Weight of Evidence

A court of law is a place where a fact is not a fact until it is proved -- or in certain cases, disproved -- by incontrovertible evidence. Here, the role of the expert witness becomes paramount.

The Weight of Responsibility

Often, the evidence put forward in a trial by an expert witness can be a deciding factor in tipping the balance in favour of a well-informed, reliable well considered judgment.

Expert vs Expert Witness

To be an expert witness, you need to be an expert. This may seem obvious, but note that an expert is not the same as an expert witness
An expert offers special expertise in a particular field. As an expert witness however, he or she needs to offer additional skills and abilities – courtroom skills and report writing, for example -- which can be enhanced by training and developed over time.

When in court, the expert witness methodically presents opinion evidence based on evidence of fact. The subsequent report -- which the expert witness also prepares -- would be written within a specified time scale in compliance with specific legal guidelines.

The Expert

The expert is anyone with specialist knowledge not commonly held, or likely to be understood by a layman. When there is no intention to place an expert’s opinion before the court, that person is referred to as an expert advisor and may take on a number of behind-the-scenes roles.

The Expert Witness

To summarise, an expert witness is an also an expert, but one whose specialist knowledge supports considered opinions which may be placed before a court (or other judicial or quasi-judicial body – for example, a tribunal or arbitration). 

Fundamentally, the role of the expert witness is to provide technical analysis and opinion which will assist the court in reaching its decision. The opinion evidence put forward by the expert witness is based on evidence of fact.

Core Competencies for Expert Witnesses

The EWI have developed a core competency framework for Expert Witnesses which sets out the attributes, knowledge, and skills that experts must develop if they wish to act as an Expert Witness.

It is a useful tool in a number of ways:

  • It outlines the knowledge and skills that are required of Expert Witnesses.
  • It can be used as a self-assessment tool for you to think about your personal and professional development.
  • It can be used for skills analysis, training, and career development plans and enables you to identify Continuing Professional Development opportunities and training needs
  • It underpins EWI’s levels of membership and the assessment and vetting process for each.
  • If you are not yet a member, it can be used to assess the membership level you should consider.
  • It can be used to assess relevant training courses for Expert Witnesses.

Core Competency Framework

Want to find out more?

Why not book for our popular Expert Essentials webinar. This serves as a great introduction to everything you'll need to to know about your work as an Expert Witness.