Monday, 9 June 2008

Assessing Risk: A Report on the Family Justice Council Annual Seminar

Full Story:

The highly successful London Family Justice Council's Seminar was held in April where 300 delegates who work in Family Justice attended. Delegates ranged from members of the judiciary, barristers, solicitors, magistrates clerks, CAFCASS, Guardians and representatives from the Ministry of Justice to name but a few. As this annual seminar was heavily oversubscribed I have attempted to highlight the key points of the talks during the day for the readers of Family Law Week. The theme of the seminar was risk assessments and two eminent speakers attended to deliver lectures on the subject. Professor Don Grubin Professor of Forensic Psychiatry from Newcastle University discussed risk assessments, their usefulness and validity and Dr Gillian Mezey Reader and Consultant in Forensic Psychiatry from St George's University of London discussed risk assessments in the context of domestic violence. What to make of risk assessments? The three key points which Professor Grubin's made in his lecture were: Know your expert area better than the experts Challenge the meaning of risk Know what is behind the risk assessments In Professor Grubin's experience the attitude in the USA was very different in respect of experts where lawyers would know the area of expertise as well as if not better than the expert and would cross examine much more vigorously having the knowledge from their own research to ask the right questions. Professor Grubin's suggestion for the UK family courts was for a single court appointed expert in cases with each party being able to have an expert to advise them on the court appointed expert's report and areas for cross examination. It was his opinion that lawyers should have a good enough understanding of expert areas to be able to cross examine effectively and this means keeping abreast of all the developments in a particular area and knowing the new research papers on the topic.

No comments: