In our latest article, chief executive of the Expert Witness Institute, Simon Berney-Edwards, outlines the Institute’s new certification scheme for expert witnesses.
The need for expert witness certification
Scrutiny of expert witnesses has increased in recent years, and the courts have responded with both criticism and (in some instances) severe penalties for those individuals who put themselves forward as expert witnesses, but who clearly do not understand the role or their obligations.
In Beattie Passive Norse Ltd & Anor v Canham Consulting Ltd (No. 2 Costs)  EWHC 1414 (TCC) (28 May 2021), Mr Justice Fraser remarked: “There is a worrying trend generally which seems to be developing in terms of failures by experts generally in litigation complying with their duties.”
Not only do cases such as Pal v Damen  (non-compliant report and partisan expert), Patricia Andrews & Ors v Kronospan Limited  (non-compliance with the rules around expert meetings and joint statement), Palmer v Mantas & Anor  (unconscious bias), and Reynolds (for CSB 123 LIMITED) v Stanbury  (poor performance in giving evidence) highlight the importance of training in the core competencies for being an expert witness, they more importantly identify the need for trained expert witnesses to keep up to date with the latest rules and regulations, ensure they remind themselves of their role and obligations, and undertake ongoing professional development which is relevant to their role as an expert witness.
In an environment where anyone can put themselves forward as an expert, you can provide a clear and demonstrable indication that you take your role and duties seriously through membership of the EWI and signing up to our Code of Professional Conduct.
What is certification?
EWI certification is an assessment process which enables applicants to gain both recognition and validation for their current practice as an expert witness. By becoming an EWI certified expert, individuals will commit to undertaking ongoing continuing professional development and they will be required to go through the certification assessment every five years to revalidate their practice and retain their certified status.
The assessment builds on the vetting procedures in place for EWI membership by adding a higher-level membership category for highly experienced experts. Certification assesses all the core competencies required as an expert witness; recognising those who can demonstrate excellence in report writing, discussions between experts and giving oral evidence in court. More importantly, applications for certification (and revalidation of certification) are assessed on the expert’s ability to demonstrate actual practice in real scenarios.
Why should you become a certified expert witness?
Over the last year, we have continued to see the credibility of expert witnesses called into question where experts have acted as expert witnesses without fully understanding their duties. This certification provides a clear indication to those who instruct you that you can deliver.
- Validation of your practice as an expert witness by a professional body
- Demonstration of your commitment to professional development
- Promotion at the top of all search results on the EWI’s ‘Find an Expert Witness’ Directory
- Use of the postnominals MEWI (Cert) or FEWI (Cert) (if you have previously been accepted as a Fellow of the Institute)
- 15 SCQF credit points at SCQF Level 11 (Masters level) which you can transfer to another academic or vocational qualification.
Credit rating for certification
Certification has been SCQF credit rated by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) and has been awarded 15 SCQF credit points at SCQF Level 11.
This accreditation provides EWI certification with an equivalent rating comparable with other qualifications and evidences the academic weighting. All certificates will be issued with the SCQF logo as proof of achievement. In some circumstances, holders of certification may be eligible for recognition of prior learning in the pursuit of a further qualification, but this is at the discretion of the relevant training/learning provider.
The benefits of having SCQF credit rating are that it provides certification with national recognition and improved quality assurance processes (regularly assessed by the SQA).
The importance of appropriately trained expert witnesses is already recognised by the Judiciary. The EWI certification has already attracted a number of endorsements.
“I welcome the EWI’s initiative in creating a certification programme for expert witnesses. The complexity of much of modern litigation means that expert witnesses often play an essential role in the administration of justice. Unfortunately, judges have had to criticise experts for failing to understand and comply with their duties. Such failures can result in injustice and such criticism can cause serious damage to a person’s professional reputation. I hope that the initiative will assist experts, the parties who instruct them to give evidence, and the judiciary in their collaboration to ensure high standards in the administration of justice.”
Lord Hodge, Deputy President of the Supreme Court
“It is crucial that expert witnesses are properly trained and qualified so that they are able to comply with their duties to the courts and tribunals before which they appear. I welcome the work of the EWI in promoting the introduction of an SQA accredited programme in support of that objective.”
The Right Hon Lord Carloway, Lord President of the Court of Session.
How to apply
The EWI has set out the core competencies expected of expert witnesses. These competencies will be assessed for certification and are used as the basis for the assessment criteria for applications.
There are four stages of the application process:
- Submit application – you are required to complete an online application form which includes the submission of key pieces of evidence in support of your application
- Rules and regulations assessment – you will complete an online assessment (20 multiple choice questions) of your understanding of the rules and regulations of the jurisdiction and court in which the report which forms part of your application was submitted in
- Write statement on experts’ meetings and joint statements – you will write and submit a 250-word statement detailing your experiences in participating in expert discussions and reflecting on the joint statement submitted. Where you do not have any experience or an example of a joint statement, you will be asked to submit a statement on the practice in your jurisdiction
- Examination/cross examination – you will be invited to undertake a mock examination in chief/cross-examination with an advocate or barrister, based on the report submitted. The advocate or barrister will seek to test your competence in giving oral evidence. In most cases, these will be conducted via Zoom, however, we also can conduct these in-person. They last no longer than 30 minutes. If you have successfully completed the cross-examination module with Bond Solon in the last 5 years, their certificate will be accepted as evidence.
Full details of the requirements, application and membership fees, and the online application form can be found at: www.ewi.org.uk/certification.
Interested in applying?
If you have not already asked for a login link from David Stothard, please contact him and you will be sent a unique registration link.