Experts in the Family Courts

The results of the legal survey and consultation confirmed that difficulties in securing
expert witnesses were experienced across the country and in a wide range of
specialisms. It also emerged that the shortages were not confined to medical experts but
to other allied professions in particular psychology and independent social workers.
The impact of the shortages was principally in creating delay although there were also
concerns about the quality of some expert evidence which appeared likely to be linked
to the shortages. The detrimental impact of delay is enshrined in statute and in
particular in relation to children under the age of three, where delay may have a direct
detrimental impact upon the success of future placement, the working group were
satisfied that the shortage of experts was likely in some cases to be harmful to children.
The main shortages identified were:-

a. Child and Family Psychiatrists and Psychologists
b. Paediatricians
c. Radiologist and Neuroradiologists
d. Neurosurgeons
e. Ophthalmologis
f. Haematologists
g. Neonatologists
h. Geneticists

  1. The results of the medical survey and consultation supported the conclusion that the
    pool of experts, in particular in some areas of specialism, was diminishing and a
    combination of factors was causing those who had previously reported to cease
    reporting and were acting as a disincentive to senior registrars or consultants
    considering taking on expert work in the future.

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