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Saturday 21st April 2018

Expert medical witness overhaul

30th October 2006

15092006_childpoverty1.jpgThe expert witness programme looks set to undergo a radical overhaul following concerns over a number of high profile child abuse cases.

Chief Medical Officer for England Sir Liam Donaldson is to unveil plans for a new national NHS system which will provide expert medical witnesses to family courts.

The proposals come amid concerns over the role of medical witnesses in alleged child abuse cases. Anger following the trials of mothers such as Sally Clark, jailed after being wrongly convicted of killing her two sons, may also have deterred medical experts from giving evidence.

Retired paediatrician Professor Sir Roy Meadow was struck off after giving flawed evidence at Mrs Clark’s 1999 trial. He had told the jury there was a "one in 73 million" chance of two children dying from cot deaths in an affluent family.

Mrs Clark's conviction was later quashed in the Court of Appeal on grounds unrelated to Sir Roy's evidence.

Sir Liam wants to introduce the National Knowledge Service, a large pool of expert witnesses that will form part of the NHS. Currently, solicitors source their expert witnesses.

The test would be whether it gives enough incentives for more experts to come forward, and whether courts feel it gives them enough independence.

There would also be new standards, providing guarantees on the quality of work.

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