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The Duty of an Expert Witness
  • Jan 29, 2020
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The duty of an expert witness is to help the court to achieve the overriding objective by giving opinion which is objective and unbiased, in relation to matters within their expertise. This is a duty that is owed to the court and overrides any obligation to the party from whom the expert is receiving instructions - see Criminal Procedure Rule 19.2 CrimPR 19.

CrimPR 19.2(3)(d) also obliges all experts to disclose to the party instructing them anything (of which the expert is aware) that might reasonably be thought capable of undermining the experts opinion or detracting from their credibility or impartiality

The Criminal Practice Direction V -evidence-2015 provides guidance at CPD V 19A.8 and 19.A9 on what experts are reasonably expected to be aware of. CPD V 19A.7 provides examples of information that should be disclosed by all experts under CrimPR 19.2(3)(d) including:

(a) any fee arrangement under which the amount or payment of the experts fees is in any way dependent on the outcome of the case;

(b) any conflict of interest of any kind, other than a potential conflict disclosed in the experts report;

(c) adverse judicial comment;

(d) any case in which an appeal has been allowed by reason of a deficiency in the experts evidence;

(e) any adverse finding, disciplinary proceedings or other criticism by a professional, regulatory or registration body or authority, including the Forensic Science Regulator;

(f) any such adverse finding or disciplinary proceedings against, or other such criticism of, others associated with the corporation or other body with which the expert works which calls into question the quality of that corporation's or body's work generally;

(g) conviction of a criminal offence in circumstances that suggest:

  • a lack of respect for, or understanding of, the interests of the criminal justice system (for example, perjury; acts perverting or tending to pervert the course of public justice),
  • dishonesty (for example, theft or fraud), or
  • a lack of personal integrity (for example, corruption or a sexual offence)

(h) lack of an accreditation or other commitment to prescribed standards where that might be expected;

(i) a history of failure or poor performance in quality or proficiency assessments;

(j) a history of lax or inadequate scientific methods;

(k) a history of failure to observe recognised standards in the expert’s area of expertise;

(l) a history of failure to adhere to the standards expected of an expert witness in the criminal justice system.

CrimPR Rule 1 states that the 'overriding objective' of the rules is for criminal cases to be dealt with justly. This rule places certain obligations on each participant in the criminal justice process, which includes expert witnesses. These obligations require the participant to deal with the case justly and in an efficient and expeditious manner, complying with the Rules and any other direction that the court makes, and advising the court should they or any another participant not comply with such rules and directions.