Court ruling highlights the need for Certified Expert Witnesses

30 May '19

The collapse of a multi-million pound fraud trial yesterday has once again highlighted the importance of ensuring that Expert Witnesses are indeed experts in their field and have the necessary skills and competencies to undertake Expert Witness work.

This is the second time in a week that a Crown Prosecution Service Trial has collapsed because of their bad choice of a poor expert.

In closing the case, the Judge Nicholas Loraine-Smith said: "Andrew Ager is not an expert of suitable calibre. He had little or no understanding of the duties of an expert. He had received no training and attended no courses. He has no academic qualifications. His work has never been peer-reviewed."

This result clearly demonstrates the significant impact when selecting an Expert Witness who is not a member of the Expert Witness Institute and does not appear on our vetted list of Expert Witnesses. Fully vetted members appearing on our list of experts will have provided evidence of their expertise, provided references from instructing solicitors or barristers and will have a recent anonymised report peer-reviewed before being placed on the register.

In addition, the Expert Witness Institute will be promoting its certification scheme for expert witnesses designed to provide the legal profession with a ‘gold-standard’ register of experts in June 2019.

The certification, delivered in conjunction with the Judicial Institute at University College London (UCL), is an intensive assessment process to assess experts’ competency as witnesses. Successful applicants will receive a certificate of competency which will last for 5 years.

Sir Martin Spencer, chair of EWI, said “The outcome of this trial highlights the importance of CPR compliance and ensuring that instructing bodies such as the CPS select Expert Witnesses who are appropriately qualified and experienced. One way would be only to instruct experts who are members of an organisation such as the EWI with its system of vetting members to ensure they comply with the appropriate standards. At present, anyone can put themselves forward as an Expert Witness, and this case illustrates the potential dire consequences. We should always strive to ensure that Experts are of the highest calibre, irrespective of their field of expertise.”

Instructing parties can access our register of vetted experts at: https://www.ewi.org.uk/find-an-expert/

 

Note to editors

The Expert Witness Institute (EWI)

Founded in 1996, the Expert Witness Institute (EWI) is the leading membership body and training provider for expert witnesses in the UK.

The not for profit body supports experts from all professional disciplines, promoting their services to lawyers across the UK and internationally. The EWI’s objectives are to promote excellence in expert evidence worldwide through rigorous vetting and evaluation, and to support the proper administration of justice, and the early resolution of disputes through fair and unbiased expert evidence.