Experts testify to a need for witness skills

The quality of expert evidence has been the subject of much comment in the legal press since Lord Woolf reported last year on the first stage of his inquiry into civil justice in England and Wales. Writing reports for use in court and giving expert evidence from the witness box demand skills different from those […]

The quality of expert evidence has been the subject of much comment in the legal press since Lord Woolf reported last year on the first stage of his inquiry into civil justice in England and Wales. Writing reports for use in court and giving expert evidence from the witness box demand skills different from those most experts such as engineers acquire during the course of their professional careers, and there is growing support for the idea of formal training in these skills.

The question of training and accreditation of expert witnesses was raised again in a consultation document issued by the Lord Chancellor’s department earlier this year. The publisher of the UK Register of Expert Witnesses distributed copies of the document to all 2,800 expert witnesses listed.

The range of opinions voiced by the expert witnesses show the challenges facing Lord Woolf if any of his recommendations are to be implemented.

It appears that training is acceptable to the majority of practising expert witnesses if it is at the right price, in the right location, and not mandatory. Of those who had already attended a skills training course, the general consensus was that the training had been helpful.