Important change to Expert Witness’ Declaration in criminal cases
This week changes to the wording of the declaration in an expert’s report came into force. This change affects expert witnesses who act in criminal cases with immediate effect. The amendment is at Criminal Practice Direction Part V: Evidence 19B: Statements of Understanding and Declarations of Truth in Expert Reports.
The previous version of paragraph 13 of the declaration read:
“13. I confirm that I have acted in accordance with the Code of Practice for Experts.”
The new wording of paragraph 13 of the declaration is:
“13. I confirm that I have acted in accordance with the code of practice or conduct for experts of my discipline, namely [identify the code]”
This amendment makes it clear that the code of practice or conduct to be followed by an expert when signing a declaration on a report that is made available for the court, should be the code of practice or conduct relevant to that individual expert’s profession.
What this amendment means for you?
· You must amend the declaration in your criminal report template to the new wording in paragraph 13, including the specific details of your profession’s code of practice or conduct.
· We would recommend that you contact your professional body to obtain the current version of your profession’s code of practice or conduct for expert witnesses. Ensure that you read it and comply with it before finalising your next report for a criminal case.
This now requires experts to declare:
‘I confirm that I have acted in accordance with the code of practice or conduct for experts of my discipline, namely [identify the code]’.
Following this change a large number of experts were seeking clarification on a number of points to ensure that their reports are procedurally compliant. These were raised with the Criminal Procedure Rule Committee Secretariat, which has kindly come back with the following clarifications including that in every case the expert witness will wish to establish the reliability of their opinion:
Q. Is the code that an expert refers to the general code of conduct of their professional body or is it the code(s) of conduct issued by the body specifically covering acting as an expert witness?
A. An expert should refer to the specific code(s) of conduct issued by their professional body which covers expressing the opinion and acting as an expert.
Q. What if the expert:
a) is a member of professional body that does not have a code which covers acting as an expert?
b) is not a member of a professional body
A. As the expert has no material code to adhere to they should state that they consider them self bound by no material code for which ever reason.
Q. How should an expert ‘[identify the code]’ in the declaration? Is it by stating the area of expertise, the name of the professional body, the name of the code or identifying number of the code?
A. Experts should specify the code(s) that they have adhered to: for example a forensic scientist should specify the code issued by the Forensic Science Regulator. Experts who adhere to a code(s) that they have adopted voluntarily as a member of a body such as the Academy of Experts or the Expert Witness Institute should specify that body’s code. If the expert is a member of a number of professional bodies they will declare that they have acted in accordance with each material code.
Click here to download the latest version of the full declaration.