A judge has taken the unusual step of publicly expressing his concern over the conduct of an expert witness in a Court of Protection case.
His Honour Clifford Bellamy decided to publish Re X and Y (Delay: Professional Conduct Expert), which was handed down on Monday, after consulting with the president of the family division and the family division liaison judge for the Midland region.
The judgment states that Dr Kathryn Ward, the designated doctor for safeguarding for Bradford, Airedale, Wharfedale and Craven Clinical Commissioning Groups, was instructed to prepare reports for two children. However these were not delivered.
HHJ Bellamy said Dr Ward has had a distinguished career. 'As a consultant paediatrician, she is held in high regard. It is particularly sad, therefore, that at the end of her career she should face the kind of criticisms from the court that I am about to set out in this judgment.'
The judgment states that six months after Ward was instructed to prepare a report on X, and four months after she was asked to prepare a report on Y, neither report had been written. She had not seen X or Y, and 'it very much appears to be the case that Dr Ward has thus far spent little, if any, time reading the medical records that have been made available to her'.
HHJ Bellamy acknowledged that there will be occasions when an expert, who genuinely believed they could complete a report by a set date, is no longer able to when circumstances change. However, he said: 'What is not acceptable is what has happened in this case where the expert has given a succession of dates by which her reports would be delivered but, as is patently obvious, with no genuine or realistic expectation that any of the dates suggested could, in fact, be met. Courts and experts must work together in a co-operative co-ordinated way. That simply has not happened in this case.'
HHJ Bellamy said a draft of the judgment was provided to Ward in advance of a hearing that she was invited to attend and make representations before the judgment was handed down.
'She handed in a letter explaining the personal difficulties she has faced in recent months. The explanation she gave was much the same as the explanation she has previously given to the parties' solicitors. She was profusely apologetic for her failings in this case. She indicated that she has decided not to accept any further instructions in cases in the family court,' HHJ Bellamy said.
'I am deeply concerned about the way Dr Ward has behaved in this case. It does not meet the standards expected of an expert witness or the expectations of the court in this particular case. It cannot be allowed to pass without comment. That comment should be placed in the public domain.'
Approached by the Gazette, Dr Ward said it would not be appropriate to comment.