Government pledges action on regulating expert witnesses in family court proceedings

In response to concerns raised regarding the qualifications of expert witnesses in Family Court cases, Justice Minister Lord Bellamy has committed to addressing the issue, as reported by The Law Society Gazette.

The pledge comes following an investigation jointly conducted by the Gazette and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. The investigation spotlighted a particular family case involving allegations of parental alienation, where psychologist Melanie Gill, who lacks regulation by the Health and Care Professions Council, provided expert testimony.

During the trial, doubts were cast on Gill’s expertise by legal counsel, leading the court to dismiss her report’s claims of parental alienation by the mother. Promoting Amendment 91 of the Victims and Prisoners Bill, Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Brinton underscored the anomaly surrounding regulated psychologists. She cited concerns raised by the Health and Care Professions Council regarding the risks posed by unregulated psychologists in offering expert evidence.

Although Amendment 91 was withdrawn, Lord Bellamy assured that the Family Procedure Rule Committee will address the issue. Preliminary discussions have already begun in this regard. He said:

“The government entirely appreciate the aim of this amendment—something needs to be done… In the Ministry of Justice, we have been in discussion with the Department of Health about the term ‘psychologist’, what it means, whether one should regulate it and so forth. The government’s position is that only psychologists who are regulated should be undertaking psychological assessments in the family court.”

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