Three out of four judges and lawyers make no checks on the qualifications of expert witnesses, whose evidence can be crucial to a finding of guilt or innocence, research suggests.
The first study of its kind shows that the training of expert witnesses to give evidence is still patchy and unregulated, creating a continuing risk of miscarriages of justice.
The research, by City University, London, comes after a High Court ruling on Friday that upheld findings of serious professional misconduct by the General Medical Council against Alan Williams, a Home Office pathologist. Dr Williams, 58, conducted post mortem examinations for both of the babies of Sally Clark, the solicitor who served three years for murdering her two sons until her conviction was quashed on appeal.
Penny Cooper, associate dean at the University, a barrister and a governor of the Expert Witnesses Institute, who conducted the research, said that nearly one in ten experts had no training at all and did not intend to undertake any. “The quality of expert evidence has been criticised in a number of recent, high-profile miscarriages of justice. This issue is inextricably linked with training, which is voluntary and unregulated,” she said.