A qualification worth having

Following our top news story last month, Simon Berney-Edwards, chief executive of the Expert Witness Institute (EWI), outlines its new certification scheme for expert witnesses, why it is important and how you can apply.

Scrutiny of expert witnesses has increased in recent years and the courts have responded with both criticism and severe penalties for those individuals who put themselves forward to do this job but who clearly do not understand the role or their obligations.

In Beattie Passive Norse Ltd & Anor v Canham Consulting Ltd (No. 2 Costs) [2021] EWHC 1414 (TCC) (28 May 2021), Mr Justice Fraser remarked: ‘There is a worrying trend generally which seems to be developing in terms of failures by experts generally in litigation complying with their duties.’

The importance of training in the core competencies for being an expert witness have been highlighted in a number of recent cases.*

They more importantly identify the need for trained expert witnesses to:

Simon Berney-Edwards

 Keep up to date with the latest rules and regulations;

 Ensure they remind themselves of their role and obligations; 

 Undertake ongoing professional development which is relevant to their role as an expert witness.

In an environment where anyone can put themselves forward as an expert, you can provide a clear and demonstrable indication that you take your role and duties seriously through membership of the EWI and signing up to our code of professional conduct. 

What is certification?

EWI certification is an assessment process which enables applicants to gain both recognition and validation for their current practice as an expert witness. 

By becoming an EWI certified expert, individuals will commit to undertaking ongoing continuing professional development (CPD) and they will be required to go through the certification assessment every five years to revalidate their practice and retain their certified status.

The assessment builds on the vetting procedures in place for EWI membership by adding a higher-level membership category for highly experienced experts. 

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Certification assesses all the core competencies required as an expert witness, recognising those who can demonstrate excellence in report writing, discussions between experts and giving oral evidence in court.

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

Why should you become a certified expert witness?

Over the last year we have continued to see the credibility of expert witnesses called into question where experts have acted in the role without fully understanding their duties to the court. 

Certification provides a clear indication to those who instruct you that you can deliver.

It provides validation of your practice as an expert witness by a professional body and demonstration of your commitment to professional development.

Certified expert witnesses appear at the top of all search results on the EWI’s ‘Find an Expert Witness’ Directory.

They can make use of the postnominals MEWI (Cert) or FEWI (Cert) – if they have been previously accepted as a fellow of the Institute.

Credit rating for certification

The Scottish Qualification Auth­ority (SQA) has endorsed EWI Certification in the Scottish Credit and Qualification Frame­work (SCQF). It has awarded it 15 SCQF credit points at SCQF Level 11 – masters level – which you can transfer to another academic or vocational qualification. 

This accreditation provides EWI Certification with an equivalent rating comparable with other qualifications and evidences the academic weighting. 

All certificates will be issued with the SCQF logo as proof of achievement. In some circumstances holders of certification may be eligible for recognition of prior learning in the pursuit of a further qualification, but this is at the discretion of the relevant training/learning provider. 

The benefits of having SCQF credit rating are that it provides certification with national recognition and improved quality assurance processes that are regularly assessed by the SQA.

How to apply

The EWI has set out the core competencies expected of expert witnesses. These competencies will be assessed for certification and are used as the basis for the assessment criteria for applications.

There are four stages of the application process:

1. Submit application

You are required to complete an online application form which includes the submission of key pieces of evidence in support of your application.

2. Rules and regulations assessment 

You will complete an online assessment (20 multiple-choice questions) of your understanding of the rules and regulations of the jurisdiction and court in which the report which forms part of your application was submitted in

3. Write statement on experts’ meetings and joint statements

You will write and submit a 250-500 word statement detailing your experiences in participating in expert discussions and reflecting on the joint statement submitted. 

Where you do not have any experience or an example of a joint statement, you will be asked to submit a statement on the practice in your jurisdiction

4. Examination/cross examination

You will be invited to undertake a mock examination in chief /cross-examination with an advocate/barrister based on the report submitted. 

The advocate/barrister will seek to test your competence in giving oral evidence. In most cases these will be conducted via Zoom. 

However, we also can conduct these in-person. They last no longer than 30 minutes. If you have successfully completed the cross-examination module with expert witness training company Bond Solon in the last five years, then its certificate will be accepted as evidence. 

5. Final assessment

The result of the quiz, all your documents including reflections on joint statements and CPD, plus the three references will be collated into one form. 

This form, and the recording of the mock cross-examination will be assessed separately by two assessors. 

If both come to the same result then we will let you know the result at this stage.  

If they disagree, we will ask a third assessor to moderate. You will be notified of your final result within four weeks after the mock cross-examination (assuming all references have been received in time).

Full details of the requirements, application and membership fees, and the online application form can be found at: www.ewi.org.uk/Certification.

* Pal v Damen [2022] (non-compliant report and partisan expert), Patricia Andrews & Ors v Kronospan Limited [2022] (non-compliance with the rules around expert meetings and joint statement), Palmer v Mantas & Anor [2022] (unconscious bias), and Reynolds (for CSB 123 LIMITED) v Stanbury [2021] (poor performance in giving evidence).