Expert witness scheme to be reformed and improved

The NHS would be asked to provide medical expert witnesses for child care cases from designated teams under proposals announced today.

The plans, published by chief medical officer Liam Donaldson, are designed to improve the standards of expert evidence, after it was called into question in a number of cases.

Currently expert witnesses act in a private capacity, though most work for the NHS, and are commissioned by solicitors, but today’s proposals would create a structure within the health service for delivering expert evidence.

Donaldson says that the NHS must be fully reimbursed for carrying out the extra work the proposals would entail, though it has not been decided which public body would commission the service. The cost of experts is currently shared by the Legal Services Commission and local authorities.

Donaldon’s review into the role of expert witnesses was commissioned in 2004 after the evidence of paediatrician Sir Roy Meadow led to the wrongful conviction of Sally Clark for murdering her two babies.

The proposals are out for consultation until 28 February 2007.


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