Expert witnesses under criticism
The UK legal system is adversarial, and profound disagreements are bound to arise when opposing sides present or contest evidence. However, there are well-established procedural rules and conventions of politeness and this includes the judicial pronouncements by which judges explain their reasoning. Expert witnesses are there to enlighten the court with the benefit of their wisdom and experience, and it is rare to find a team of experts roundly criticised; however, this did happen—albeit in measured tones—in one recent case in the English High Court (Sardar v NHS Commissioning Board).
The case concerned a 24-year-old man who had suffered a brachial plexus injury at birth and who brought a claim in his own name once he reached the age of majority. Memory recall for the ‘witnesses of fact’ is clearly going to be problematic after such a long gap, and the judge was certainly critical of the version of events related by the claimant's mother. However, the case is particularly memorable for his comments about the claimant's expert witnesses. In relation to their duty to the court, section 35.3 of the Civil Procedure Rules states:
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