10/14/2014 - Northern Ireland: Justice Minister Starts Consultation Of The Use Of Expert Witnesses In The Wake Of Cut Backs

Justice Minister David Ford has launched a public consultation examining the use of expert witnesses appearing in the Courts in Northern Ireland. An ongoing programme of reform, of publicly funded legal services includes a number of recommendations in relation to the use of expert witnesses.

David Ford reinforces the importance of expert witnesses in the Northern Irish and British adversarial system by stating that: "Expert witnesses are crucial to the delivery of justice and perform a vital function in both criminal and civil cases. I believe, however, there is room for improvement in the current use of experts to ensure that they are used proportionately to the legal issues involved in the cases. The consultation document considers the multiple use of experts and alternative remuneration methods.

It is important that those involved in the delivery of justice provide appropriate levels and quality of service as cost effectively and efficiently as possible. My Department is facing unprecedented budgetary pressure and it is necessary to examine all aspects of the justice system. This consultation will help to ensure that robust arrangements are in place for procuring expert services.
This will assure the public that we are securing value for money.

"There has been significant improvement to the process for engaging experts in recent years. However, there remains a lack of empirical evidence regarding the use of experts. This consultation invites comments on how the current arrangements might be improved and strengthened, to ensure that expert testimony continues to make the most useful and appropriate contribution to justice delivery.

The consultation period closes on 20 February 2015.

1. The consultation paper launched on 13 November. The consultation will run for a period of 14 weeks and responses are sought by 20 February 2015.

2. This consultation paper seeks views from stakeholders on the current operation of the system and how that might be improved.

Download the consultation link at http://www.dojni.gov.uk/use-of-expert-witnesses-in-courts-in-ni

3. People who want to respond to the consultation paper, or ask further questions should contact:
Consultation Co-ordinator
Public Legal Services Division
Department of Justice
Massey House
Stormont Estate

Email: plsdresponses@dojni.x.gsi.gov.uk

Fax: 028 9016 9502

Tel: 028 9016 9516

Text phone: 028 9052 7668

4. This is part of a series of planned consultations aimed at reforming civil and criminal legal aid in Northern Ireland.