The government has said ‘something needs to be done’ to ensure only properly regulated experts are called to give evidence in Family Court proceedings. The commitment, given by justice minister Lord Bellamy last week, was made in response to an amendment to the Victims and Prisoners Bill. It follows a joint investigation and article by the Gazette and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

The article detailed a family case that included allegations of ‘parental alienation’. It highlighted a report by expert witness psychologist Melanie Gill, who is not regulated by the Health and Care Professions Council (the ‘relevant regulatory body’). Her expertise was questioned by counsel during the trial. The court rejected the report’s proposition that there had been parental alienation by the mother.

Promoting the amendment, amendment 91 of the bill, Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Brinton said: ‘The Law Society Gazette this week set out the technical anomaly that exists with regulated psychologists. The position of the regulator, the Health and Care Professions Council, is that it wrote to the director of workforce at the Department of Health and Social Care to highlight risks presented by unregulated psychologists, including in relation to the provision of expert evidence.’

Amendment 91 was withdrawn following assurances from Lord Bellamy that the Family Procedure Rule Committee will undertake work to address the issue, and that preliminary discussions were underway.

Lord Bellamy

Lord Bellamy: 'something needs to be done'

He said: ‘The government entirely appreciate the aim of this amendment—something needs to be done… In the Ministry of Justice, we have been in discussion with the Department of Health about the term “psychologist”, what it means, whether one should regulate it and so forth. The government’s position is that only psychologists who are regulated should be undertaking psychological assessments in the family court.’


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