Becoming an expert witness gets harder

By Robin Stride

Lucrative expert medical witness work may be harder for some doctors to find following action launched by the Expert Witness Institute (EWI).

With the scrutiny of expert witnesses increasing in recent years, the courts have responded with both criticism and some severe penalties for individuals who put themselves forward as expert witnesses but who do not understand the role or their obligations.

But the EWI believes its new certification of expert witnesses will drive improvements in expert witnesses’ quality and provide lawyers with a pool of experts they can rely on to deliver.

Following two successful pilot studies, the Expert Witness Instit­ute is rolling out its new Certified Expert Witness Membership, a ‘gold-standard’ register of experts whose knowledge, skills and practice have been thoroughly validated by the institute.

This will assure lawyers that by instructing an EWI-certified expert, they are enlisting a professional who understands their role and can ultimately deliver. 

 

To get EWI certification, applicants must already be highly experienced experts, with the assessment process building on the vetting procedures in place for EWI membership. 

They will be assessed on all the core competencies required to be an expert witness, recognising those who can demonstrate excellence in report writing, discussions between experts and giving oral evidence in court. 

Crucially, applications for certification and revalidation of certification, are assessed on the expert’s ability to demonstrate actual practice in real scenarios.

Recertification every five years for expert witnesses

Consultants wanting to be certified as expert witnesses will have many hoops to jump through to stay on the accredited list.

Under the Expert Witness Institute scheme, certified experts must commit to undertaking continuing professional development and will be required to go through the certification assessment every five years to revalidate their practice and retain their certified status.

Experts who have achieved certification will be identified as such and appear at the top of search results on the Institute’s Find an Expert Directory.

EWI Certification has been SCQF credit-rated by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) and has been awarded 15 SCQF credit points at SCQF level 11.

The new gold standard has been warmly received by the judiciary in both the English and Welsh and Scottish jurisdictions.

Lord Hodge, deputy president of the Supreme Court, responded: ‘I welcome the EWI’s initiative in creating a certification programme for expert witnesses. 

Simon Barney-Edwards

‘The complexity of much of modern litigation means that expert witnesses often play an essential role in the administration of justice. 

Experts criticised

‘Unfortunately, judges have had to criticise experts for failing to understand and comply with their duties. Such failures can result in injustice and such criticism can cause serious damage to a person’s professional reputation. 

‘I hope that the initiative will assist experts, the parties who instruct them to give evidence and the judiciary in their collaboration to ensure high standards in the administration of justice.’

Also welcoming the EWI’s move, the Right Hon Lord Carloway, Lord President of the Court of Session, said it was critical that expert witnesses were properly trained and qualified so they could comply with their duties to the courts and tribunals.

EWI chairman Sir Martin Spencer said: ‘We are delighted to add this new level of membership to our Find an Expert Directory which provides the legal profession with a pool of talent with the relevant education, training, understanding and experience to provide expert guidance to the courts.’

The scheme was made available to members via a soft launch, since when 40 members have upgraded to become a Certified Expert Witness over the last seven months.

The EWI said the scheme was open to experts from all disciplines who could demonstrate an excellent level of practice against the core competencies. It costs £325 for EWI members and £425 for non-members to apply.

Further information at www.ewi.org.uk/certification