During court cases, expert testimony is often required to build a strong case. If you think you need to hire an expert witness this post can help.

Who can be an expert witness?

An Expert Witness is a person who has specialised knowledge which qualifies them to give expert opinions in legal proceedings. In mental health, the most commonly instructed types of experts are psychiatrists and psychologists.

The role of an expert witness is to give their opinion on matters of which they are experts in the field.

If you are looking for a psychiatric expert, expect to instruct someone who has experience working as a consultant psychiatric but also consider what information they can give you about their particular expertise and professional knowledge. Whatever type of expert witness you require, you will want to be assured that their expertise and opinion is able to withstand scrutiny.

Who might call on an expert witness?

Expert witnesses may be instructed to provide a specialist opinion in all sorts of settings including criminal courts, family courts, civil courts, tribunals (including mental health, employment etc), and in the case of regulated professionals, fitness to practice hearings.

How can hiring an expert witness support criminal proceedings?

Expert witnesses are often called to give evidence in criminal proceedings not least because mental disorder is overrepresented in criminal justice settings. Psychiatrists are most commonly instructed to establish whether a defendant has a mental disorder, whether the defendant is fit to plead, to give evidence about a defendant’s mental state at the time of the alleged offences, to comment on their ability on form intent and specific defences (including insanity, diminished responsibility and automatism) and to provide guidance to the court for sentencing.

You may have been instructed that your client has mental health problems or a confirmed diagnosis of mental disorder but equally, you may simply suspect that they have problems.  You may have experienced difficulty taking instructions, there may be reports of strange behaviour in the witness statements or other professionals may have expressed concern.

Obtaining reliable expert evidence will assist the court in reaching the right outcome.  For your client, the outcome of their case could be very different.

How can expert witness’ support other proceedings?

Your instructions may differ but your objectives will be the same: you will want to seek the best outcome for your client.  Expert witness evidence is often needed to provide a narrative to the courts on which expert opinions may be founded.  You may be seeking an opinion about your client’s mental health in the context of their ability to parent, you may need to establish whether there is psychiatric/psychological harm in cases of personal injury and clinical negligence or you may need to establish risk in settings such as parole board and fitness to practise hearings.

Who can be a mental health expert witness?

The overriding principle is that the person must have specialist knowledge and experience. Psychiatric expert witnesses will almost always have experience working as a consultant psychiatrist; similarly, psychological expert witnesses should be able to demonstrate senior experience but may not always hold consultant grade status.  If you’re thinking of using an expert witness to support your case, please check out our blog post on “What to look out for when choosing an expert witness.”

How does the process vary if you work for the prosecution or defence?

An expert witness’ primary duty is to give objective and unbiased opinions on matters within their expertise to help the court achieve its objective.  Whether an expert is instructed by the prosecution, the claimant, the appellant or the defendant, the duty is the same.

When do you need an Expert Witness?

You may not need to hire an expert witness in many cases. If you’ve got a particular case and you’re not sure whether you need an expert or not, submit an enquiry via our form and we can talk it through it with you. We can also offer guidance about instructing the right type of expert witness.

To find out more about how to hire an expert witness in your criminal case, contact Expert Court Reports today.