Practice Direction Guidance on Changes to the Criminal Procedure Rules

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In our last update, we drew your attention to important changes to the Criminal Procedure Rules which came into force on April 1st.

The changes which are of particular importance to expert witnesses working in the criminal courts relate to the disclosure of any matter, of which the expert is aware, affecting the reliability of their opinion, or detracting from the credibility or impartiality of the expert witness.

Please click here to the read full update.

The Lord Chief Justice has now issued the promised guidance, in a new Practice Direction which also took effect on April 1st, 2019.

In Practice Direction 19A.7, 8 and 9, he explains what matters the expert witness is expected to disclose. The guidance is helpful in setting out a non-exhaustive list of areas which the expert ought to consider and it is essential to read this in full.

Please click here to read the full Practice Direction.

The guidance also points out that “the rules require disclosure of that of which the expert, or the party who introduces the expert evidence, is aware” and there is no obligation placed on experts to go to endless lengths to find out if there any issues to disclose:

“The rules do not require persistent or disproportionate enquiry, and courts will recognise that there may be occasions on which neither the expert nor the party has been made aware of criticism”.

Having said that, the Practice Direction goes on to say that, if a matter which ought to have been disclosed by the expert is not disclosed, but comes to light via another source, then a “searching examination of the circumstances” can be expected. That may lead the court to exclude that expert’s evidence.

Practice direction guidance on new rules of disclosure by expert witnesses in criminal proceedings will be covered in our Bond Solon
Criminal Law and Procedure training course.

Nick Deal
Barrister and Head of Expert Witness Training, Bond Solon

This article was published on the 9th of April 2019