Communicating your knowledge
24 April 2009
Beaumont House, Windsor
Session 1: Communication and Credibility
Barrister, Philip Evans, leads this session which assesses the impact and consequences of failing to communicate expert evidence clearly, how and why it can go wrong, and ways in which it can threaten credibility.
Session 2: The Importance of being Simple
Civil Engineer, David Corke, headlines the fundamental principles of communicating complex ideas in simple steps. Slides (PDF)
Road Traffic Accident Investigator, Graham Doughty, made legal history in overturning a magistrates' court's decision that he was not an expert. With the help of fellow investigator, Roland Barber, he illustrates the importance and the influence of good communication skills, whatever the field of expertise.
Session 3: Making Words Count
Legal presentation consultant and former television documentary producer, Cindy Buxton, shows how visualising complex issues can help get simple ideas across to the court.
Session 4: Law Commission Consultation
Editor of the UK Register of Expert Witnesses, Dr Chris Pamplin, introduces the LawCommission's Consultation on creating a pre-trial test of the reliability of expert evidence. Slides (PDF)
What’s an Expert Supposed to Do?
16 October 2009
Mottram Hall, Mottram St Andrew
Session 1: Vulnerable Areas for Experts
Richard Ansell (from the Information Commissioner's Office) and Tom Magner and Richard Cory-Pearce (from the Society) explain how experts can fall foul of the Data Protection Act, the Court Rules (CPR and CrimPR), confidentiality, professional discipline and wasted costs orders.
Session 2: Accreditation after CRFP
Andrew Rennison, the Forensic Science Regulator, discusses his proposals for the Assessment of Forensic Laboratories and Scientists and addresses the implications of the demise of the CRFP. His presentation is followed by Chris Pamplin, from the UK Register of Expert Witnesses, who gives his views on the feasibility of accreditation of expert witnesses and discusses how it might affect the conduct of cases.
Session 3: Experts and Methods on Trial
Raymond Emson from the Law Commission presents the proposed legislation for the testing of experts and their methods in criminal courts, including the Daubert Test and its proposed English equivalent. Frazer Imrie then takes centre stage to discuss how experts might be examined before trial and how adversarial that might become. Bunty Batra closes the session.
Session 4: Payment from Public Funds
Experts find the systems of payment by the LSC, the CPS and the courts confusing, and sometimes inconsistent and lacking clarity. Brian Biggins from the National Taxing Team and Sonja Mahoney from the LSC explain. Sonja also introduces the proposed scheme for capping and restricting payments to experts, recently published for consultation.
Session 5: Society Debate
The speakers join forces to draw together the themes of the day.
In response to feedback and requests from members, the autumn conference will concentrate on important aspects of the increasing volume of rules and regulations that apply to Expert Witnesses.
Already there are many regulatory processes in place and yet more are in contemplation, development or on trial. It is only too easy to fall foul of some of them, especially if you are not fully aware of their existence or ramifications. The penalties can be severe: public criticism could badly damage your earning potential and might have unexpected and unwelcome repercussions in your principal area of professional practice. In many cases where members seek our advice, we find that they are surprisingly, sometimes alarmingly, ignorant of the court rules and procedures, which could result in their evidence not being admitted or, yet worse, in a wasted costs order against them that might amount to many thousands of pounds.
Although immunity from suit continues, that doesn’t protect you from complaints that could lead to severe professional disciplinary sanctions, not to mention the probable blaze of adverse publicity. As you probably know, in some recent, high-profile cases highly respected experts have lost their livelihoods. Some of these regulations have the force of statute, breach of which constitutes a criminal offence; the penalties can include heavy fines or even a custodial sentence.
How many of you are really sure what the Data Protection Act demands of you and whether you are sufficiently compliant? Well, the Data Protection Commissioner will address the first session and set you straight on those aspects.
You are probably aware that the Council for the Registration of Forensic Practitioners was wound up as a result of a review by the then fairly newly appointed Forensic Science Regulator. Needless to say, views on how to regulate and accredit expert witnesses have not been slow to emerge and the regulator has already put forward the basis on which he proposes to accredit forensic science organizations and the experts associated with them. He will set out the thinking behind those proposals at the conference. It is more than likely that other divisions – family, civil etc – will use his experience to model their own versions in much the same way as CrimPR drew on CPR, so this is an important piece of evolving regulation for experts in all fields.
The Law Commission recently concluded its consultation on Expert Evidence in the Criminal Courts and is now assembling the results to form the basis of proposed legislation to formalise the admission of expert evidence. Two fundamental aspects that underpin the concept of ‘sufficient reliability to be considered by the jury’ are the reliability of the methodology and the validity of the expert. Substitute ‘court’ for ‘jury’ and you will straightway see that it is inevitable that this will, if it suits the judiciary and the Ministry of Justice, be rolled out across all jurisdictions. You really need to know about this, particularly about being under scrutiny yourselves, how to comply and how to be paid for all the extra work involved. Raymond Emson, the Law Commission Solicitor in charge of the project, will explain what is proposed in the way of testing experts and their evidence and leading lawyers will describe how they see it working in practice.
A constant source of frustration and inconvenience for expert witnesses is the difficulty and delay attending payments from public funds. This applies to cases funded by the Community Legal Service, the Criminal Defence Service, the Crown Prosecution Service and the courts. There are codes and guides but members find it difficult to discover how they are meant to be interpreted and executed or to persuade court officers to agree! Moreover, the scheme for fixed and capped fees that went quiet a couple of years ago has resurfaced and is being carried forward with new vigour. Sonia Mahoney, Senior Manager in Strategic Development at the Legal Services Commission, is coming to tell us the latest and to advise on some of your problems.
Workshops. An important change in the way we will schedule the ever-popular Saturday morning workshops is being introduced for this conference. Many members tell us that they want to attend more of the Society’s array of workshops but aren’t suited by those offered at a particular conference or, having missed one, find it won’t then come up again for some time. So, this time we are inviting you to indicate the ones you wish to attend so that we can provide those that will satisfy most people. In this we flatter ourselves that we can please all of the people all of the time, so, please, don’t sabotage our chances by choosing only one or two!