UK familycaught$ routinely uses “unqualified experts”
Scandal of ‘unqualified’ experts who advise our family courts: Decisions about the care of thousands of children routinely flawed
By KATHERINE FAULKNER
PUBLISHED: 01:48 GMT, 13 March 2012 | UPDATED: 09:31 GMT, 13 March 2012
Life-changing decisions about the care of thousands of children are routinely being made on flawed evidence from poorly qualified “experts’ in the family courts, a damning study reveals.
More than a fifth of these vital reports are being produced by people who are completely unqualified, the Channel 4 News investigation found.
“Experts’ used in hundreds of family court proceedings are frequently unqualified or unreliable, the study reveals.
In some cases, reports on parents or children are being given to courts by doctors who have not even seen the individuals concerned.
But in a unique study for the Family Justice Council, Professor Jane Ireland – a forensic psychologist who has herself been an expert witness – examined over 100 expert witness reports used in family court cases.
Incredibly, she found that 20 per cent had been produced by people who were not qualified at all.
A further fifth had been carried out by people who were writing reports in areas entirely beyond their knowledge and qualifications.
In addition, as many as 90 per cent of the reports had been produced by “expert’ witnesses who were no longer in current practice at all, but were simply working as “professional expert witnesses’.
Often, these professional experts – who rake in thousands of pounds in fees from the chaotic family courts system – have not practised for years, leaving them out of touch with developments in their field.
They are often appointed to assess the suitability of a parent or parents to continue to look after their child in care proceedings brought by local councils.
They can also be used in access cases following the separation of a child’s parents.
Thousands of children have their futures decided in the family courts every year and because of strict rules on what can be reported, often little is revealed about what happens once the court doors are closed.
In the past, parents have bitterly complained that they have not even been allowed to know the names of the paid expert witnesses who testified against them.
That has now changed but Professor Ireland, of the University of Central Lancashire, said 65 of the 100 reports she examined were “poorly’ or “very poorly’ carried out.
Some reports were found to “cite opinion without conducting a formal assessment’ or show a complete lack of understanding of the conditions discussed.
One was even found to have “completed an assessment on the mother without actually seeing her’.
Professor Ireland said an “urgent review’ of expert witnesses in the family courts was needed.
“I think we were very concerned and perturbed by some of the reports that we read,’ she told Channel 4 News.
“Some of the most startling results were the sheer number of expert psychologists .Ã¢â‚¬â€°.Ã¢â‚¬â€°. who are reporting that their entire job is the production of assessment reports for courts.
“I think the results from the research are enough to suggest that we do need an urgent review across the range of expert witnesses that the courts are employing.’
The Family Justice Council is an independent public body set up in 2004 and funded by the Ministry of Justice.
It is charged with monitoring the family justice system and advising the Government and the courts on how the system can be improved.
One mother involved in family court proceedings told how a psychiatrist who had never seen her wrote a 14-page report on her and her family.
The day after the psychiatrist signed off his report he was suspended by the General Medical Council for a separate offence.
Despite this, his report was still used by the courts.
“He’s never seen us, never spoken to us,’ she said, “and yet he’s ended up writing 14 pages, with recommendations, that he could not possibly have made if he had spoken to any of us or had he read through the court papers.’
She said her custody case dragged on for five years because of the competing testimonies of no fewer than eight expert witnesses.
“The court system in England is barbaric,’ she said.
“It does not allow parents to be given a voice, it doesn’t allow their children to be given a voice.
“But what it does instead is it focuses on employing expert witnesses – at huge expense.’
Nigel Priestley, a family solicitor in Huddersfield, said: “If the statistics are that 20 per cent are unqualified, that is not just a mess, that is staggering.’
For the full report, see Channel 4 News on March 13 at 7pm.
MurrayBacon comments: I don’t believe that the situation in NZ regarding expert witnesses is quite as bad as reported in UK.
In practice though, our problems with lazy and ineffective lawyers is probably worse.
ive found all the reports written up about me and my kids were all to corroborate what the X had said..whatever shit she came out with there was a report to back it up
In my last Femily caught fiasco the doddery relic they appointed as lawyer for child made his assessment of me without ever meeting me and only used the ex’s discription to form his assessment of my conduct and attitude.
He forgot the court date and didnt file his reports in the prescribed time, and in fact tried to hand them to me in the foyer of the caught as we were walking in. He also freely admitted that he had overstepped his brief in including statements from the ex and her wishes in his report when he was supposed to be acting only for the children.
None of this phased the fat fool presiding over the case. As a judge he admitted that the mistakes made by Council for child and the exs lawyer were, in his words “unfortunate” My words were “predjudical and negligent” but hey I was a dad in femily caught what more can you expect.
Never take femily caught seriously. While the issues can be serious the caught is a circus and should be treated as such.
the lawyer for my kids added an extra page to the custody and access order after it had been to court..the extra page had dates and times for the xmas period all to suit what the x had planned..the extra page wasnt initialed by me or x and his excuse was it must have been superimposed over the top by mistake
then the next lawyer i had(female)i told i didnt want that lying little wanker near me or my kids..that went down like a lead balloon then i had her play her manipulative games on me as well like during ph convo she went quiet and i listened fr a few moments and when she didnt say anything i went to speak and she interrup[ted she and gave me greif for interuppting her and proceeded to lecture me..im sick and tired of fuckheads telling me how it is no matter what their profession is
I just about fell off me perch and broke me beak. The Hague Convention actually working in New Zealand. Slap me twice, ruffle me feathers and tell me it’s true
#5..excellent to see something actually working for a father..awesome