Related Sector: Expert Witness

Many experts must be thinking is it worth doing expert witness work as the potential consequences of giving evidence that is found wanting can be catastrophic.

The circumstances

Dr Waney Squier was struck off the GMC register for her conduct as an expert witness in shaken baby cases. The tribunal found that she 'deliberately and dishonestly misled the courts by putting forward theories insufficiently founded upon the evidence, by giving evidence outside your own field of expertise, and by misquoting research and literature so that it appeared to support your opinion when it did not.'

Her supporters argue that she was struck off for challenging the theory of shaken baby syndrome and argue that this case will have a serious adverse effect on justice and lead to an increase in wrongful convictions of carers. As Clive Stafford Smith, leading human rights lawyer, said “Justice demands that a doctor who honestly holds views supported by scientific evidence be permitted to give testimony that challenges the hypotheses of others”. Are the actions of the GMC forcing out of the courtroom doctors who criticise SBS?  Was the case about effective regulation or preventing challenges to the mainstream theory?

Could this happen to any expert?

Expert witnesses are not only accountable to their professional regulators; the case of Jones v Kaney has made experts liable in both contract and negligence for their opinions.  

Experts must only give evidence within their field of expertise. However many medical experts deal with overlapping and unclear boundaries. How do you know when you have stepped out of your area of expertise? Expert evidence must be supported by relevant research. However, is it possible to provide a balanced view of all relevant research when time and costs are so limited?

Join the debate at our Annual Expert Witness Conference on 4 November 2016 and put your questions to:

Lord Justice Fulford, Senior Presiding Judge for England and Wales

Tom Kark QC, who represented the GMC in the case against Dr Squier

Clive Stafford-Smith, human rights lawyer and supporter of Dr Squier

This article was published on 13th September 2016.

 

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