We, the undersigned have experience of experts in the family courts as either professionals or parents.
We are writing to request an amendment to Practice Direction 25 B so that no person may be permitted to submit an expert report involving the assessment of any child unless that person meets minimum standards of professional practice, which we assert are as follow. The expert must:
- submit to an external regulatory or supervisory body which requires adherence to a Code of Conduct
- meet professional obligations as data controllers
- provide clear and accessible formal complaints procedure
We are troubled by the number of experts involved in family proceedings who do not appear to meet some or all of these basic requirements.
Practice Direction 25B sets out the standards expected of expert witnesses – see Annex paras 4 and 6.
The expert is up-to-date with Continuing Professional Development appropriate to their discipline and expertise, and is in continued engagement with accepted supervisory mechanisms relevant to their practice.
If the expert’s area of professional practice is not subject to statutory registration (e.g. child psychotherapy, systemic family therapy, mediation, and experts in exclusively academic appointments) the expert should demonstrate appropriate qualifications and/ or registration with a relevant professional body on a case by case basis. Registering bodies usually provide a code of conduct and professional standards and should be accredited by the Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care (See Appendix 2). If the expertise is academic in nature (e.g. regarding evidence of cultural influences) then no statutory registration is required (even if this includes direct contact or interviews with individuals) but consideration should be given to appropriate professional accountability.
We feel strongly that the requirement to consider such regulation on a ‘case by case basis’ is potentially unfair to parents who may be acting in person and who may not initially appreciate the potential significance of a failure by any professional to submit to external regulation.
We are very concerned that parents who wish to raise significant concerns about the conduct of an expert who is not subject to external regulation, have no where to go other than the appeal process, which is clearly not a suitable mechanism to deal with the majority of complaints against an expert’s conduct.
We would be grateful if you would give our letter consideration.
SIGNATORIES as of 17th October 2019
Sarah Phillimore, Barrister
Professor Lauren Devine
Stephen Parker Senior Lecturer
Dr Sue Whitcombe CPsychol AFBPsS
Ruth Tweedale, family law solicitor and lecturer
Alison Bushell, expert
Nicky Sole, parent.
Mike Flinn , Child and Family Therapist , MBACP ( accred)
Roy Mackay, Family Law Reform Campaigner
Belinda Jones, FMC Family Mediator, AFCC Parenting Co-ordinator, GDL, LPC.
Trish Barry-Ralph ISW, expert witness
Ruaidhri Magee, Parent
Helen Taylor Social Worker
Dr Nick Child, BSc MB ChB MRCPsych MPhil Retired Child Psychiatrist and Family Therapist
Debi Richens, parent and grandparent
Tracey McMahon – Housing and Welfare Rights Practitioner
Nick Burke Social Worker
Rosie Dixon Psychologist
Alicia Leal Parent
Jennifer Cole, Midwife
Charlotta Bolton – Parent
Emma Cleaver – Parent
Julia O’Connor – Parent
Tracy Stapleton Childcare Professional
Helen Woodhouse NHS Nurse
Moira McCann Registered Childminder
Helen Green NHS
Laura Brooks Deputy Headteacher
Christina Lamb, parent.