2011 Conferences

Independence and Immunity

Friday 6th May 2011

Chilworth Manor, Southampton

Programme (PDF)

Expert Witness Immunity Wiped Out
New Expert Witness Accreditation Proposal

Important Expansion of SEW Conference Programme

The recent, much-anticipated case of Jones v Kaney has resulted in the withdrawal of witness immunity from expert witnesses. What effect will this judgement have on experts? Will it

  • Radically alter their approach to giving testimony?
  • Cause experts to abandon such work in droves?
  • Mark the beginning of an open season for suing experts?
  • Burden them with soaring indemnity costs?

Coincidentally, a new proposal for the accreditation and certification of expert witnesses has been formulated by the Expert Witness Institute. Experts remember previous schemes without enthusiasm; is this one to be any different?

Such is the importance of these two recent developments to the expert witness community that the Society has altered its imminent conference programme to allow leading legal thinkers to address their implications. See the new programme for details.


The Independence Imperative
Solicitors and barristers are obliged to take the side of their clients and constantly seek to persuade expert witnesses to give their opinions in a favourable light; this exposes the experts to the risk of compromising their independence. But such compromise would breach their overriding duty to the court, so it must be resisted. From receipt of a solicitor’s enquiry to presenting and discussing opinion evidence, experts must be – and must be seen to be – independent.

The Expert’s Obligations
That the non-partisan position of experts is central to their function and credibility is repeatedly borne out. Time and again, experts of all disciplines have been shown to regard maintaining and demonstrating independence as key concerns, partly from pride in their professional performance and partly from fear of criticism, leading to disciplinary sanctions and consequent adverse effects on their livelihoods. In the opening session Christopher Boocock will describe the obligations of expert witnesses to maintain independence and how to assess their own performance.

Preserving Independence
Experts whose independence or professional credibility has been challenged will present the facts of their individual experiences of a variety of attacks. In a session moderated by Christopher Boocock, they will describe how they dealt with them and with what measure of success – or failure! The floor will then be opened for discussion of the cases and possible strategies for experts to preserve their independence. Richard Cory-Pearce will end the morning sessions by identifying the common danger areas and how to navigate safely through them.

Accreditation Reappears
Just two years after the Council for the Registration of Forensic Practitioners was wound up, a new proposal for the accreditation/certification of expert witnesses is being circulated. The source is the Expert Witness Institute whose chairman, James Badenoch QC, will present the details of the scheme and seek expert views on how its structure and validity could be improved.

Society Open Forum
After tea, the salient issues raised by the day’s proceedings will be open to the views of all, led by a panel drawn from the speakers and selected experts. This promises to be an even more lively debate than the usual robust and forthright exchanges for which the Society is known.

Book Now – discounts available

This is a conference not to be missed. It is your opportunity to find out and understand more of the recent changes affecting expert witness practice. Remember, no-one acts for the expert witness in legal proceedings so you need to know how to ensure your performance is beyond reproach and secure from attack.

The Good, The Bad and the Ugly - How expert evidence can make or break a case

Friday 23 September 2011

Kenwood Hall, Sheffield

Programme (PDF)

Pleasure and Pain

Every expert providing opinion evidence, whether as a report or in person, will have experienced pleasure and pain in proportion to the measure of success achieved in accurately transmitting the proper understanding of technical or otherwise specialized information. We have all sensed the satisfaction that accompanies the observation of correct interpretation of our opinions by lawyer, judge or jury and, just as much, the frustration that follows a hostile and seemingly perverse cross-examination when, having completed our evidence, we hear it being presented in a distorted and misleading manner. Worse yet, though doubtless only witnessed in others, the disastrous effects of frankly bad expert opinion, whether unwittingly given or otherwise.

These, then, are the good, bad and ugly faces of expert evidence. The Society autumn conference sets out to deal with them by a combination of keynote lectures by eminent speakers and exemplary case presentations by members, drawn from the accumulated experience of numerous instructions over many years.

Review and Redress

Good and bad evidence is open to reconsideration by the justice system by means of the safeguards inculcated in the various review mechanisms available, such as appeal, judicial review or referral. It is unusual, however, for experts to find themselves involved in such hearings so this is an important opportunity to gain insight into the workings of this part of the system.

Until 1997 the Home Secretary dealt with applications by people claiming to be victims of miscarriages of justice. Following the 1993 Royal Commission on Criminal Justice’s report, the Criminal Appeal Act 1995 was passed, enabling the establishment of the Criminal Cases Review Commission as an executive Non-Departmental Public Body. The Society is, indeed, fortunate in having one of the commissioners, Ms Julie Goulding, to present a keynote address dealing with the effects of good and bad expert evidence on the proper administration of justice. Ms Goulding is an experienced lawyer, who trained at Hempsons, a firm well known for its special expertise in defending doctors and dentists in both civil and criminal cases. She joined the Commission in January 2007.

Ups and Downs of an Expert

The second keynote address is by Dr Martin Mansell, who is widely known for his extensive work as an expert in the diagnosis & treatment of kidney diseases. He has taken part in an impressive array of cases including a wide variety of personal injury claims & professional negligence allegations. Drawing on his wealth of experience, he will illustrate, from the expert’s viewpoint, the highs and lows that can be encountered.

We’ve Seen It All

A selection of experts from the Society’s membership has been arranged to recount entertaining and instructive episodes from their extensive cumulative experience. They have been selected to cover a broad range of fields of expertise and include Edward Josse, Society Chairman and Forensic Medical Examiner; David Dyson, legally qualified Firearms Consultant; Frazer Imrie, Forensic Biologist specializing in food cargo damage; Robert Douglas, Respiratory Physiologist specializing in diseases acquired in the workplace; and Paul Croft, Road Crash Investigator.

Opportunities to question

The customary (and always lively) open forum session offers the ideal opportunity for you to question, learn and discuss within a friendly and supportive environment. This can continue – or not, as you prefer, as you socialize with your colleagues at the Society reception and dinner.

Hands-on Workshop training

Saturday morning brings you the opportunity to benefit from a morning of high quality, hands-on training from experienced expert witnesses. Our workshops are just the place to air questions within a small group of like-minded colleagues and to gain valuable knowledge on practical aspects of your work as an expert. There will be two workshops for you to choose from:

You can complete and submit your booking form on line or download it and send in by post. You will be invoiced when it arrives at the Society’s office and a receipted invoice and conference pack with further details of the venue and programme will be sent with your booking confirmation as soon as payment is received.

If you have any queries about our 2011 Autumn Conference, do please call Teresa on 0845 702 3014.