Medical Experts in the Family Courts

The President of the Family Division Working Group on Medical Experts in the Family Courts

Summary

In recent years it has become increasingly difficult for the Family Justice system to find experts who are willing to give evidence in Family Court proceedings. The shortage has not only been of clinical experts but also allied health professionals and independent social workers. Expert evidence is often necessary in order to decide cases justly and the reduction in available experts therefore presents a serious problem.

In Autumn 2018, The President of the Family Division, Sir Andrew McFarlane established a working group to identify the scale of the problem of medical expert witness shortages in the family courts, to look at the causes and to identify possible solutions. Mr Justice Williams was appointed to Chair the Group with representation from the legal profession and Royal Medical Colleges and other interested parties.

This report makes 22 recommendations aimed at reducing expert shortages. Some of these recommendations include the development of online training resources, engagement of professional bodies, amendments to legal aid guidance in payment provision, as well as the requirement for greater efficiency in court paperwork and processes, and better local and regional co-ordination.