Expert witness – Evidence outside competence & lack of reasons

A decision to suspend a psychiatrist from the United Kingdom medical register for three months for acting outside his competence as an expert witness was correct as to the expertise issue, but the orders made were “flawed and disproportionate,” the England & Wales High Court has ruled.

The recent court decision was the subject of comment in the BMJ on 14 November 2014.

The Court decision is now available online: Pool v General Medical Council [2014] EWHC 3791 (Admin)

The doctor was not an expert in the field of general adult psychiatry and had failed to restrict his opinion to areas in which he had expert knowledge or direct experience and to matters that fell within the limits of his professional competence. Relevant to the expertise issue, at [33] the court said:

…The question was not whether the Appellant had skills or experience in dealing with particular conditions which would enable him to carry out a risk assessment of a person with those conditions. The question was whether he could, legitimately, describe himself as an “expert” in the field of assessment of the fitness to practise of an individual carrying out a particular role in the workplace. The Appellant was, simply, not an expert in that area.

The court also confirmed at [41] that the doctor had not provided adequate reasons for his opinions.

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