Part 19 of the Criminal Procedure Rules 2015 dealing with expert evidence in Crown Courts and Magistrates’ Courts in England & Wales has been updated with effect from 5 October 2015. For convenience the new materials are brought together in a single document here.
The Criminal Procedure Rules are in future to be referred to by the abbreviation CrimPR to distinguish them from the Civil Procedure Rules, see new rule 2.3.(2).
Expert evidence – guide to the amendments to the Rules
Part 19 (Expert evidence) is amended to include a new rule about an expert witness’ obligations to the court. At the same time the Criminal Procedure Rules as a whole have been rearranged – the new Part 19 dealing with expert evidence previously appeared as Part 33 of the 2014 edition of the rules.
Rule 19.2 (Expert evidence; Expert’s duty to the court) now requires an expert witness, as part of her or his duty to the court, to help the court in some of the same ways as a party to the case, by complying with directions (for example, as to the time by when a report must be served), and by warning the court of any significant failure to act as required by a direction (for example, by warning of substantial delay in the preparation of a report).
In response to observations by the Court of Appeal in its judgment in R v Reynolds, R v Rosser  EWCA Crim 2205, and in response to reports by Rule Committee members of increasing difficulties in obtaining expert reports within the same times as before, the Committee agreed that an expert’s implicit duty to the court to give a realistic estimate of the time within which expert evidence can be prepared, and to adhere to that estimate, should be made explicit.
Expert evidence – the Rules as amended
When this part applies
(1) This Part applies where a party wants to introduce expert opinion evidence.
(2) A reference to an ‘expert’ in this Part is a reference to a person who is required to give or prepare expert evidence for the purpose of criminal proceedings, including evidence required to determine fitness to plead or for the purpose of sentencing.
Expert’s duty to the court
(1) An expert must help the court to achieve the overriding objective —
- (a) by giving opinion which is —
- (i) objective and unbiased; and
- (ii) within the expert’s area or areas of expertise; and
- (b) by actively assisting the court in fulfilling its duty of case management under rule 3.2, in particular by —
- (i) complying with directions made by the court, and
- (ii) at once informing the court of any significant failure (by the expert or another) to take any step required by such a direction.
(2) This duty overrides any obligation to the person from whom the expert receives instructions or by whom the expert is paid.
(3) This duty includes obligations —
- (a) to define the expert’s area or areas of expertise —
- (i) in the expert’s report, and
- (ii) when giving evidence in person;
- (b) when giving evidence in person, to draw the court’s attention to any question to which the answer would be outside the expert’s area or areas of expertise; and
- (c) to inform all parties and the court if the expert’s opinion changes from that contained in a report served as evidence or given in a statement.
Introduction of expert evidence
(1) A party who wants another party to admit as fact a summary of an expert’s conclusions must serve that summary —
- (a) on the court officer and on each party from whom that admission is sought;
- (b) as soon as practicable after the defendant whom it affects pleads not guilty.
(2) A party on whom such a summary is served must —
- (a) serve a response stating —
- (i) which, if any, of the expert’s conclusions are admitted as fact, and
- (ii) where a conclusion is not admitted, what are the disputed issues concerning that conclusion; and
- (b) serve the response —
- (i) on the court officer and on the party who served the summary,
- (ii) as soon as practicable, and in any event not more than 14 days after service of the summary.
(3) A party who wants to introduce expert evidence otherwise than as admitted fact must —
- (a) serve a report by the expert which complies with rule 19.4 (Content of expert’s report) on —
- (i) the court officer, and
- (ii) each other party;
- (b) serve the report as soon as practicable, and in any event with any application in support of which that party relies on that evidence;
- (c) serve with the report notice of anything of which the party serving it is aware which might reasonably be thought capable of detracting substantially from the credibility of that expert;
- (d) if another party so requires, give that party a copy of, or a reasonable opportunity to inspect —
- (i) a record of any examination, measurement, test or experiment on which the expert’s findings and opinion are based, or that were carried out in the course of reaching those findings and opinion, and
- (ii) anything on which any such examination, measurement, test or experiment was carried out.
(4) Unless the parties otherwise agree or the court directs, a party may not —
- (a) introduce expert evidence if that party has not complied with paragraph (3);
- (b) introduce in evidence an expert report if the expert does not give evidence in person.
Content of expert’s report
Where rule 19.3(3) applies, an expert’s report must —
- (a) give details of the expert’s qualifications, relevant experience and accreditation;
- (b) give details of any literature or other information which the expert has relied on in making the report;
- (c) contain a statement setting out the substance of all facts given to the expert which are material to the opinions expressed in the report, or upon which those opinions are based;
- (d) make clear which of the facts stated in the report are within the expert’s own knowledge;
- (e) say who carried out any examination, measurement, test or experiment which the expert has used for the report and —
- (i) give the qualifications, relevant experience and accreditation of that person,
- (ii) say whether or not the examination, measurement, test or experiment was carried out under the expert’s supervision, and
- (iii) summarise the findings on which the expert relies;
- (f) where there is a range of opinion on the matters dealt with in the report —
- (i) summarise the range of opinion, and
- (ii) give reasons for the expert’s own opinion;
- (g) if the expert is not able to give an opinion without qualification, state the qualification;
- (h) include such information as the court may need to decide whether the expert’s opinion is sufficiently reliable to be admissible as evidence;
- (i) contain a summary of the conclusions reached;
- (j) contain a statement that the expert understands an expert’s duty to the court, and has complied and will continue to comply with that duty; and
- (k) contain the same declaration of truth as a witness statement.
Expert to be informed of service of report
A party who serves on another party or on the court a report by an expert must, at once, inform that expert of that fact.
Pre-hearing discussion of expert evidence
(1) This rule applies where more than one party wants to introduce expert evidence.
(2) The court may direct the experts to —
- (a) discuss the expert issues in the proceedings; and
- (b) prepare a statement for the court of the matters on which they agree and disagree, giving their reasons.
(3) Except for that statement, the content of that discussion must not be referred to without the court’s permission.
(4) A party may not introduce expert evidence without the court’s permission if the expert has not complied with a direction under this rule.
Court’s power to direct that evidence is to be given by a single joint expert
(1) Where more than one defendant wants to introduce expert evidence on an issue at trial, the court may direct that the evidence on that issue is to be given by one expert only.
(2) Where the co-defendants cannot agree who should be the expert, the court may —
- (a) select the expert from a list prepared or identified by them; or
- (b) direct that the expert be selected in another way.
Instructions to a single joint expert
(1) Where the court gives a direction under rule 19.7 for a single joint expert to be used, each of the co-defendants may give instructions to the expert.
(2) A co-defendant who gives instructions to the expert must, at the same time, send a copy of the instructions to each other co-defendant.
(3) The court may give directions about —
- (a) the payment of the expert’s fees and expenses; and
- (b) any examination, measurement, test or experiment which the expert wishes to carry out.
(4) The court may, before an expert is instructed, limit the amount that can be paid by way of fees and expenses to the expert.
(5) Unless the court otherwise directs, the instructing co-defendants are jointly and severally liable for the payment of the expert’s fees and expenses.
Court’s power to vary requirements under this Part
(1) The court may extend (even after it has expired) a time limit under this Part.
(2) A party who wants an extension of time must —
- (a) apply when serving the report, summary or notice for which it is required; and
- (b) explain the delay.
Expert evidence – the Practice Direction
19A.1 Expert opinion evidence is admissible in criminal proceedings at common law if, in summary, (i) it is relevant to a matter in issue in the proceedings; (ii) it is needed to provide the court with information likely to be outside the court’s own knowledge and experience; and (iii) the witness is competent to give that opinion.
19A.2 Legislation relevant to the introduction and admissibility of such evidence includes section 30 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988, which provides that an expert report shall be admissible as evidence in criminal proceedings whether or not the person making it gives oral evidence, but that if he or she does not give oral evidence then the report is admissible only with the leave of the court; and CrimPR Part 19, which in exercise of the powers conferred by section 81 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 and section 20 of the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996 requires the service of expert evidence in advance of trial in the terms required by those rules.
19A.3 In the Law Commission report entitled ‘Expert Evidence in Criminal Proceedings in England and Wales’, report number 325, published in March, 2011, the Commission recommended a statutory test for the admissibility of expert evidence. However, in its response the government declined to legislate. The common law, therefore, remains the source of the criteria by reference to which the court must assess the admissibility and weight of such evidence; and CrimPR 19.4 lists those matters with which an expert’s report must deal, so that the court can conduct an adequate such assessment.
19A.4 In its judgment in R v Dlugosz and Others  EWCA Crim 2, the Court of Appeal observed (at paragraph 11): “It is essential to recall the principle which is applicable, namely in determining the issue of admissibility, the court must be satisfied that there is a sufficiently reliable scientific basis for the evidence to be admitted. If there is then the court leaves the opposing views to be tested before the jury.” Nothing at common law precludes assessment by the court of the reliability of an expert opinion by reference to substantially similar factors to those the Law Commission recommended as conditions of admissibility, and courts are encouraged actively to enquire into such factors.
19A.5 Therefore factors which the court may take into account in determining the reliability of expert opinion, and especially of expert scientific opinion, include:
- (a) the extent and quality of the data on which the expert’s opinion is based, and the validity of the methods by which they were obtained;
- (b) if the expert’s opinion relies on an inference from any findings, whether the opinion properly explains how safe or unsafe the inference is (whether by reference to statistical significance or in other appropriate terms);
- (c) if the expert’s opinion relies on the results of the use of any method (for instance, a test, measurement or survey), whether the opinion takes proper account of matters, such as the degree of precision or margin of uncertainty, affecting the accuracy or reliability of those results;
- (d) the extent to which any material upon which the expert’s opinion is based has been reviewed by others with relevant expertise (for instance, in peer-reviewed publications), and the views of those others on that material;
- (e) the extent to which the expert’s opinion is based on material falling outside the expert’s own field of expertise;
- (f) the completeness of the information which was available to the expert, and whether the expert took account of all relevant information in arriving at the opinion (including information as to the context of any facts to which the opinion relates);
- (g) if there is a range of expert opinion on the matter in question, where in the range the expert’s own opinion lies and whether the expert’s preference has been properly explained; and
- (h) whether the expert’s methods followed established practice in the field and, if they did not, whether the reason for the divergence has been properly explained.
19A.6 In addition, in considering reliability, and especially the reliability of expert scientific opinion, the court should be astute to identify potential flaws in such opinion which detract from its reliability, such as:
- (a) being based on a hypothesis which has not been subjected to sufficient scrutiny (including, where appropriate, experimental or other testing), or which has failed to stand up to scrutiny;
- (b) being based on an unjustifiable assumption;
- (c) being based on flawed data;
- (d) relying on an examination, technique, method or process which was not properly carried out or applied, or was not appropriate for use in the particular case; or
- (e) relying on an inference or conclusion which has not been properly reached.
NOTE: A previous article dealing with the 2014 revisions to the Criminal Procedure Rules can be found HERE.