A certification scheme for expert witnesses will start this summer, in the midst of a growing public row about the collapse of a fraud trial after an 'expert' was found to be unqualified. 

The scheme, run by the Expert Witness Institute (EWI) in conjunction with the Judicial Institute at University College London, aims to create a ‘gold-standard’ register of experts. It will consist of ‘an intensive assessment process to assess experts’ competency as witnesses,’ the EWI states.

The announcement follows the collapse of a fraud trial concerning carbon credits, in which an ‘expert’ witness turned out to have no relevant qualifications.

Andrew Ager, who was hired by the prosecution, admitted he had never read a book on carbon credits and could not remember if he had passed his A levels. 

Sir Martin Spencer, chair of the EWI, said: ‘At present, anyone can put themselves forward as an expert witness, and this case illustrates the potential dire consequences. The outcome of this trial highlights the importance of ensuring that instructing bodies such as the Crown Prosecution Service select expert witnesses who are appropriately qualified and experienced.’

Some feel that certification is not necessary in all cases, however. 

Roger Isaacs, a forensic partner at accountancy firm Milsted Langdon and a qualified expert witness, said: ‘There are many instances in which experts in relatively obscure fields are asked to assist the courts.

‘Such experts may only give evidence once in their professional careers and it would be a shame if they were precluded from doing so simply because they were not accredited expert witnesses.’