A leading QC who took part in a TV programme which showed expert witnesses apparently stating their willingness to present misleading evidence in court says there is no immediate need for regulation.
But Timothy Dutton QC of Fountain Court Chambers warned the Bond Solon expert witness conference that the soaring number of actions brought by litigants in person could put current professional safeguards at risk.
He suggested that the Ministry of Justice carry out a 'sensible study' of the issue.
Dutton contributed last June to a BBC Panorama programme, Justice for Sale?, in which reporter Daniel Foggo posed as a litigant in person asking experts in fields such as graphology, CCTV analysis and animal behaviour to draw up court reports in his favour – despite admitting that he was guilty of breaking the law.
Only one of the nine experts excused himself after hearing Foggo's admission of guilt.
Dutton said that, following the programme, he had heard concerns from circuit judges about the 'industrial scale' use of expert evidence in personal injury cases. He also had 'a few' personal experience of expert witnesses who had falsified their qualifications and experience.
Despite these experiences Dutton said ‘the idea that it is necessary to regulate experts as a separate cadre is difficult’. Rather, he said, solicitors and judges had a duty to comply with procedure rules and to report professionals to bodies such as the General Medical Council where necessary.
However, problems would be more likely to arise in cases where one or both parties was not legally represented - as in the Panorama programme - and in disciplines where experts do not answer to a professional body.
A first step to tackling this 'would be for the MoJ to study how serious is the problem', he said. An offence could then be created of knowingly failing to comply with duties imposed by court procedure rules.
Earlier, Lord Neuberger, president of the Supreme Court, cautioned against the use of a ‘single joint expert’, assisting both sides in a case.
‘One thing that worries me is if you have a single joint expert, that’s who decides the case. Is the judge there only as a figurehead?’ He also said that more evidence of the effectiveness of ‘hot tubbing’ should be collected before it becomes standard practice.