Expert witnesses will face fixed fees if they are found to be ‘padding out’ their charges to compensate for new hourly rates, the senior presiding judge of England and Wales warned the largest regular conference of experts today.

Lord Justice Goldring told attendees at the annual Bond Solon Expert Witness Conference that since the government’s attempt to rein in spending on experts - £160m in 2011 - by introducing hourly fees ‘the number of hours worked per case has increased significantly’.

‘The cynics out there may conclude that some people are padding it out to get the same fees they got before,’ he said. ‘If true, that would be wholly unacceptable’ and would lead the government to introduce ‘some sort of fixed-fee regime’.

Goldring also said that ‘hot-tubbing’, in which experts for both sides of a case sit together to reach a consensus, will become an option in all civil proceedings from next April following a pilot in Manchester Technology and Construction Court. One of the outcomes of the pilot was an increase in the percentage of cases settled.

He called for more efforts to ensure that the legal profession understood calculations statistics and probability underpinning scientific evidence. A ‘Noddy’s Guide’ for judges is to be published with the help of the Royal Society, he said.