Justice Minister Jonathan Djanogly has said. changes, which will be brought in through secondary legislation, are intended to ensure that reports by expert witnesses are used only where necessary to determine a case.
Speaking at Westminster he said:
The main changes will be:
raising the threshold for the court to permit an expert to be instructed;
requiring expert witness evidence to be necessary, rather than reasonably required; and
in family proceedings concerning children, a list of factors that the court must explicitly consider in deciding whether to permit an expert to be instructed.
A study published by the University of Central Lancashire in March this year found that one in five psychologists instructed to act as expert witnesses in the family courts appeared to be inadequately qualified for the role on the basis of their submitted CVs.
The research also found that two thirds of the 126 expert reports reviewed were rated as below the expected standard. Some 90% of instructed experts maintained no clinical practice external to the provision of expert witness work, UCLAN added.
Those factors will include: the impact on the child of a delay and undergoing an assessment; the cost; and whether the information could or should be provided by one of the parties, such as the local authority.