Standards for expert witnesses in the family courts in England and Wales

Closed 18 Jul 2013

Opened 16 May 2013

Results Updated 8 Nov 2013

The joint Ministry of Justice and Family Justice Council consultation in respect of standards for expert witnesses in the family court ran from 16 May to 18 July 2013. We received 140 responses which covered the main practitioner and regulatory groups as well as responses from delivery agencies, representative groups, including those representing experts, solicitors, local authorities and members of the judiciary. This document is the formal response to the consultation. It gives an overview of responses to the consultation questions and sets out the final agreed standards. It also covers next steps for implementation.  

Files:

Overview

This is a consultation on minimum standards for expert witnesses providing evidence in the family courts in proceedings relating to children in England and Wales.

The consultation is aimed at experts, the professional and regulatory bodies for the professions from which experts are drawn, and solicitors and other practitioners in the family justice system in England and Wales. We invite views in particular on the scope, content and language of the standards, their applicability to different professions, how well they fit with existing regulatory and legal requirements and any evidence on the impact they may have.

An Impact Assessment indicates that experts providing evidence to the family courts are likely to be particularly affected. The proposals may lead to additional costs for some experts. The proposals may also lead to additional costs for solicitors’ firms and/or parties involved in proceedings and the public sector (primarily HM Courts and Tribunal Service), but these potential costs may be offset by other savings. An Impact Assessment has been published on the Ministry of Justice website alongside this consultation paper.

Comments on the Impact Assessment are very welcome. We are also inviting respondents to provide any information on potential equalities impacts (question 13 in this consultation).

What Happens Next

Subject to the outcome of consultation, we expect that the standards would come into effect later in 2013. More detailed information on the timing of implementation will be set out in the consultation response, which we expect to publish in Summer/Autumn 2013. Once finalised, the intention is to incorporate the standards within a suite of ‘expectation documents’ which will set out the key contributions and good practice which the family courts can expect of the main agencies involved in the family justice system.

We believe that Local Family Justice Boards21 will have an important role to play in working with experts, solicitors and members of the judiciary to embed the standards into local practice via local training programmes, including development opportunities for new expert witnesses such as mini-pupillages, learning events and peer support, and the dissemination of information on the new standards.

Audiences

  • Citizens
  • Local authorities
  • Government departments
  • Legal professionals
  • Judiciary
  • Prosecutors
  • Offenders
  • Victims
  • Legal professional bodies

Interests

  • Courts
  • Family justice