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Expert Witness Blog

Conferences highlight critical role of experts

Conferences highlight critical role of experts

Autumn is, of course, conference season – and there are two particular conferences of note to expert witnesses of all disciplines. In November the Bond Solon Expert Witness Conference attracted a packed house, particularly fitting as it was the 25th running of that particular race. A further attraction was a desire to learn about new rules for medical experts.

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Expert Witness News

When it comes to supporting the rule of law, experts matter

When it comes to supporting the rule of law, experts matter

Lord Neuberger delivered the keynote address at the annual conference of the Expert Witness Institute at Church House, Westminster in September. ELIZABETH ROBSON TAYLOR of Richmond Green Chambers summarises the highlights.

Looking back on autumn, lawyers will recall that it isn’t just a season of mists and mellow fruitfulness – although most do enjoy those. With predictable regularity, the falling leaves of autumn not only herald in the new legal year, they also create a really quite inspiring backdrop for fruitful new opportunities to meet, greet, network, contemplate and confer.

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Expert Witness Legal News

Lawyers welcome report on justice in Wales

Lawyers welcome report on justice in Wales

The report by the Commission on Justice in Wales, published in October, has drawn a cautious welcome from the Law Society – officially the Law Society of England and Wales.

“The Commission has made an important contribution with their vision for the future of the Welsh justice system,” said the head of the Law Society’s Wales office Jonathan Davies.

“As the body of Wales-specific law grows, it is important to consider the distinct needs of the Welsh public and the legal profession as they seek to ensure their businesses remain vibrant and sustainable.”

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Expert Witness : Building and Property

Boundary dispute reform: let’s use the legislative vacuum to good effect

Boundary dispute reform: let’s use the legislative vacuum to good effect

Who would have thought that Brexit – or the lack of it – would significantly affect the way in which the industry manages boundary disputes? Richard Crow, associate director of Trident Building Consultancy, explains:

Two years ago a Private Member’s Bill, sponsored by Lord Lytton, received its first reading in the House of Lords. The Bill suggested that boundary issues could be better addressed by using a structure which broadly replicates the provisions of the Party Wall Act – essentially removing much of the responsibility from solicitors and handing it to surveyors. Progress of the Bill was thwarted by the general election of June 2017, and with parliamentary time apparently unavailable to...

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Expert Witness : Criminal

More psychologists are in court – and that’s a good thing!

More psychologists are in court – and that’s a good thing!

Vulnerable offenders with mental health, alcohol and substance abuse problems are increasingly being diverted from short-term custodial sentences and towards treatment that aims to tackle the causes of their offending.

In the pilot areas – Birmingham, Plymouth, Sefton, Milton Keynes and Northampton – psychologists are working collaboratively with the existing panels of justice and health officials. Together, the professionals ensure that magistrates and judges have the information they need to determine whether an offender should be required to receive treatment for their mental health, alcohol or drug issues.

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Expert Witness : Medico Legal

Latest MoJ report short on detail, expert complains

Latest MoJ report short on detail, expert complains

In September the Ministry of Justice published the results of a consultation on medical reporting within the package of whiplash and small claims track reforms – due to be implemented in April next year for road traffic cases. The consultation ran for a month in April-May, and the resultant document sets out the government’s policy choices.

It is, however – as seems par for the course in this area – very light on detail. That is the conclusion of Alistair Kinley, director of policy and government affairs at law firm BLM.

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Expert Witness : Technology

Government to plug mobile phone loophole

Government to plug mobile phone loophole

The government has confirmed it will close a legal loophole which has allowed drivers to escape prosecution for hand-held mobile phone use while behind the wheel.

At present, the law prevents drivers from using a hand-held mobile phone to call or text.

However, people caught filming or taking photos while driving have escaped punishment as lawyers have successfully argued that the activity does not fit into the ‘interactive communication’ currently outlawed by the legislation.

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Expert Witness : Environment

The fundamental right to be protected from the dangers of air pollution

The fundamental right to be protected from the dangers of air pollution

The British Safety Council welcomed the news of the High Court quashing the verdict of the 2014 inquest into the death of nine-year old Ella Kissi-Debrah, who suffered a fatal asthma attack. Her mother Rosamund has since campaigned for a fresh inquest, believing Ella’s death was caused by high levels of air pollution near her home in southeast London. It means that Ella could become the first person in the UK to have air pollution mentioned as a contributory factor on her death certificate.

Lawrence Waterman, Chairman of the British Safety Council, commented: “The ruling of the High Court is proof that since 2014 we have become much better informed about the dangers of air pollution. Air poll...

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Expert Witness : Animal & Farming

Dr WHO? by Dr Debbie Marsden

Dr WHO? by Dr Debbie Marsden

Dr Debbie Marsden, a leading equestrian expert with over 20 years professional experience of expert witness work, offers some advice on selecting the right expert in cases involving animals

In animal related cases, a veterinary surgeon is often the best expert, being generally regarded as an authority on animals and easily recognised by the word ‘veterinary’ – a protected title – and the letters MRCVS (Member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons) after various degrees.

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Parliament, Legislation And Public Sector

Home Office GDPR exemption risks new Windrush, says Law Society

Home Office GDPR exemption risks new Windrush, says Law Society

The Law Society of England and Wales has criticised the decision to exempt the Home Office from data access rules in the new Data Protection Act, which implements the widely-publicised GDPR. The move will inevitably lead to miscarriages of justice, the society has warned.

Law Society president Joe Egan said the immigration exemption in the legislation stripped accountability from Home Office decision making.

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Expert Witness: Events

Expert witness conference is hailed a success

Expert witness conference is hailed a success

On 8 November Bond Solon held the 25th Bond Solon Expert Witness Conference at Church House in Westminster. Demand for the conference had been particularly high, leading to a fully-booked event. Nearly 500 expert witnesses were in attendance and there were over 50 expert witnesses on the waiting list.

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Dr WHO? by Dr Debbie Marsden

Dr Debbie Marsden, a leading equestrian expert with over 20 years professional experience of expert witness work, offers some advice on selecting the right expert in cases involving animals

In animal related cases, a veterinary surgeon is often the best expert, being generally regarded as an authority on animals and easily recognised by the word ‘veterinary’ – a protected title – and the letters MRCVS (Member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons) after various degrees.

As with all professions, when seeking an expert it is best to use a specialist; and vets are not allowed to describe themselves as a ‘specialist’ until they have taken considerable further study and been further examined in a particular area. The letter D or Dip, for Diploma, is the additional qualification to look for in a vet with particular expertise in any area, for instance DSAS – Diploma in Small Animal Surgery (Orthopaedics).

But beware! All vets are entitled to use the title ‘Dr’ without having carried out research or undertaken any further study, such as that which will have been done by the academic with a PhD degree, who is also entitled to use ‘Dr’. Vets can also gain Certificate status in any particular discipline (for example Cert EP – Certificate in Equine Practice) when beginning their postgraduate interest, without necessarily having been further examined or undertaken a residency in any area. So do look for the ‘D for Diploma’ if wishing to instruct a veterinary expert with particular expertise in any specialism.

The Royal College has a list of vets who are ‘recognised specialists’ in all the various areas, available on the website at www.rcvs.org.

If the physical aspects of performance, welfare or movement patterns are important to your case, you may find a chartered veterinary physiotherapist particularly useful. Again, they are recognised by the protected title ‘veterinary’ and registered with a specialist organisation such as ACPAT (Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Animal Therapy) – listed on www.acpat.org.uk.

Many people assume that vets are also experts in animal behaviour; but they are primarily experts in the diagnosis and treatment of disease, and actually taught very little animal behaviour beyond that necessary to recognise a healthy animal, or various signs of illness or injury, and to give a basic welfare assessment. That assessment is mainly based on health – which is after all important, but not the only aspect of welfare to consider.

In animal welfare-related cases you should consider also using an animal behaviour expert, ideally one who also has extensive experience in the day-to-day care of that species. After health, various freedoms – including ‘from fear’ and ‘to express most normal patterns of behavior’ – are embedded in how welfare is assessed in the UK.

If the behaviour of an animal is key to your client’s position, then an animal behaviour expert will be more useful than a vet. That is also the case when the adequacy (or not) of any training, instructing, handling or management of the animal is in question. In particular, an animal behaviour expert can usually answer the question “Why did the animal…?” and that can often greatly assist with assessment of cause and effect in, for example, personal injury cases.

There is a lot less regulation in the animal behaviour industry; anyone can set themselves up as an ‘animal behaviourist’ and ply a usually very lucrative trade among distressed pet owners. There are no protected titles and no professional penalties for ‘over-selling’ or marketing yourself as a specialist or as having particular expertise.

There are also many experienced animal trainers who may be able to assist, but the safest option for expert witness work is to use a behaviour consultant, behaviourist or counsellor, who is a member of a recognised professional body, such as for small animals the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors. They are at least required to hold an appropriate degree and insurance, and their work is assessed by the organisation before joining and being listed on www.apbc.org.uk.

For horses there is the Society of Equine Behaviour Consultants, a professional and regulatory body where entry to the professional register is by examination after a considerable amount of specific postgraduate-level training and submission of portfolio work. Consultants must also hold public liability and professional indemnity insurance, prioritise safety and welfare in their work, offer the highest standards of customer service and stay up-to-date with required CPD – see www.sebc.org.uk.

So, if you reckon the Animals Act is complicated, animal ‘experts’ can be too; but hopefully this information will help to point you in the right direction and sort the sheep from the goats.