We have experts in a wide range of specialties who are experienced in giving evidence in cases of criminal law
Criminal law is complex and presenting the correct information is imperative. It can often be helpful to a criminal case to seek expert evidence. At Expert Court Reports our panel of experts have experience in giving evidence in a wide variety of criminal cases including fraud, acquisitive and drug related crimes, sexual offences, stalking and harassment, and violent offences including homicide. Our forensic psychiatrists have direct experience of working with mentally disordered offenders and many of our experts have worked in prisons and other criminal justice settings such as court diversion and police liaison teams.
What issues do our experts typically address?
There are many types of experts who may be instructed in criminal cases. Some of the most commonly instructed experts in criminal cases include forensic psychiatrists.
Our forensic psychiatrists are frequently instructed to carry out assessments to establish a defendant’s fitness to plead; they have direct experience of the Pritchard criteria and are knowledgeable about the test following its operationalisation of R v M (John)  EWCA Crim 3452 CA. Most forensic psychiatrists have first-hand experience of giving evidence at crown court in cases where a defendant has been found to be unfit to plead and/or stand trial. In cases where a defendant is found fit to plead, our psychiatrists can suggest adaptations which may need to be made to enable effective participation.
Our psychiatrists are often asked to comment on trial issues. This may include providing opinions about a defendant’s mental state at the material time. Although whether a defendant had the ability to form mens rea is a matter for the court to decide, forensic psychiatrists are often asked to give an expert opinion on how a defendant’s capacity to form intent impacts on this matter. It may be helpful to instruct a psychiatrist to consider whether a defendant has a psychiatric defence available to them. This may include the defence of insanity, as per the ‘M’Naghten’ rules, and the defence to murder of diminished responsibility. Our psychiatrists all have extensive experience in assessing individuals who have been charged with murder and are confident in the assessment of diminished responsibility.
Another key area of criminal cases where a forensic psychiatrist may be instructed is at the point of sentencing. This may include commenting on whether a hospital order should be given over a custodial sentence and, if so, whether appropriate mental health treatment is available. Our psychiatrists are regularly asked to comment on the appropriateness of hospital orders such as section 37, section 45A (hybrid orders) and restriction orders. In many cases, our psychiatrists have been asked to comment on dangerousness; although they can never state whether someone is dangerous or not, they can comment on risk of violence, sexual violence, and recidivism.
Psychologists are also often instructed in criminal cases. For example, expert psychology evidence may be required to assess a defendant in cases where it is suspected they may be vulnerable due to having an undiagnosed learning disability or neurodevelopmental disorder such as autism. Psychologists may also be called to conduct assessments of suggestibility and neurocognitive ability.
Courts will often call a forensic toxicologist as an expert witness to explain the analytical results that form part of the evidence in a case. This may include giving an expert opinion as to whether a certain concentration of a chemical could account for the relevant clinical effects. For example, whether a specified amount of a prescribed medication could have been toxic to an individual under certain circumstances, or whether the concentration of alcohol in a defendant’s blood sample immediately following an offence is likely to have fundamentally altered their behaviour. Forensic toxicology experts are often instructed in cases of unexplained deaths and suspected accidental or intentional overdose. This typically involves analysing samples of blood, hair, and other tissue for substances such as alcohol, prescribed drugs, illegal drugs, and poisons. Increasingly, forensic toxicologists are asked to give expert evidence in cases of drug facilitated rape, to ascertain whether a drink may have been ‘spiked’, and whether any drugs or alcohol present may have affected an individuals’ ability to give consent. Cases of driving-related offences may also require the expertise of the forensic toxicologist, to ascertain the most likely impact of a concentration of a drug or alcohol on a specific individual.
It may be helpful to instruct a general practitioner (GP) in cases where it would be helpful to ascertain a defendant’s underlying medical conditions. For example, in cases of driving offences where a defendant has refused to give a breath sample on the grounds of asthma, a GP may be able to ascertain whether a relevant respiratory condition is present, and at what severity.
Dentists may be called upon to give expert evidence in criminal cases where it is necessary to identify an individual by dental records, or to ascertain the likely demographics and previous dental history of unidentified persons after death. Dentists are also regularly instructed to comment on bite marks as forensic evidence.
In criminal proceedings, neurologist expert witnesses may be asked to comment on the effect of neurological disorder at the material time. A common example is establishing the potential contributory effect of neurological disorder on aggressive and violent behaviour. Other examples include the assessment of blackouts, falling asleep at the wheel, and the failure to provide a specimen due to an underlying neurological disorder. More specialist examples include commenting on the defence of automatism arising from a neurological condition such as epilepsy. In such cases, a neurologist expert witness will be required to give expert evidence on the presence of epilepsy and the effect at the time of the criminal act.
Looking for an expert report for criminal case proceedings?
The examples given above of the types of experts which may be able to assist in criminal proceedings is by no means an exhaustive list. If you require assistance from an expert witness in a criminal case and would like further guidance on which specialism may be most helpful, please get in touch and we will be happy to help.