Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Expert Witnesses to Be Limited in Child Hearings

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Expert Witnesses to Be Limited in Child Hearings

Article excerpt

Byline: Martin Bentham Home Affairs Editor

THE use of expert witnesses in child protection cases is to be curbed in a bid to speed up hearings and prevent children suffering from excessive delays.

A report, unveiled today by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, warns that too many cases involving children's welfare are held up unnecessarily by poor-quality expert evidence that adds nothing of value to hearings.

It says expert testimony is often "misused and overused" as a result, and tells judges to eliminate "poor practice" by restricting the occasions upon which expert witnesses are called.

The reform is part of a package of measures drawn up by the judiciary to improve the family justice system. Other plans include setting a maximum 26-week time limit for cases, and a new specialist London family court.

The most significant change, however, will be the proposed curb on expert witnesses in child protection and other cases. Today's report, which was written by Mr Justice Ryder, says delays can cause harm to children, and too much expert testimony is currently "short on analysis" and lacking in quality. …

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