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Expert Witness Blog

Conferences highlight critical role of experts

Conferences highlight critical role of experts

Autumn is, of course, conference season – and there are two particular conferences of note to expert witnesses of all disciplines. In November the Bond Solon Expert Witness Conference attracted a packed house, particularly fitting as it was the 25th running of that particular race. A further attraction was a desire to learn about new rules for medical experts.

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Expert Witness News

When it comes to supporting the rule of law, experts matter

When it comes to supporting the rule of law, experts matter

Lord Neuberger delivered the keynote address at the annual conference of the Expert Witness Institute at Church House, Westminster in September. ELIZABETH ROBSON TAYLOR of Richmond Green Chambers summarises the highlights.

Looking back on autumn, lawyers will recall that it isn’t just a season of mists and mellow fruitfulness – although most do enjoy those. With predictable regularity, the falling leaves of autumn not only herald in the new legal year, they also create a really quite inspiring backdrop for fruitful new opportunities to meet, greet, network, contemplate and confer.

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Expert Witness Legal News

Lawyers welcome report on justice in Wales

Lawyers welcome report on justice in Wales

The report by the Commission on Justice in Wales, published in October, has drawn a cautious welcome from the Law Society – officially the Law Society of England and Wales.

“The Commission has made an important contribution with their vision for the future of the Welsh justice system,” said the head of the Law Society’s Wales office Jonathan Davies.

“As the body of Wales-specific law grows, it is important to consider the distinct needs of the Welsh public and the legal profession as they seek to ensure their businesses remain vibrant and sustainable.”

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Expert Witness : Building and Property

Boundary dispute reform: let’s use the legislative vacuum to good effect

Boundary dispute reform: let’s use the legislative vacuum to good effect

Who would have thought that Brexit – or the lack of it – would significantly affect the way in which the industry manages boundary disputes? Richard Crow, associate director of Trident Building Consultancy, explains:

Two years ago a Private Member’s Bill, sponsored by Lord Lytton, received its first reading in the House of Lords. The Bill suggested that boundary issues could be better addressed by using a structure which broadly replicates the provisions of the Party Wall Act – essentially removing much of the responsibility from solicitors and handing it to surveyors. Progress of the Bill was thwarted by the general election of June 2017, and with parliamentary time apparently unavailable to...

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Expert Witness : Criminal

More psychologists are in court – and that’s a good thing!

More psychologists are in court – and that’s a good thing!

Vulnerable offenders with mental health, alcohol and substance abuse problems are increasingly being diverted from short-term custodial sentences and towards treatment that aims to tackle the causes of their offending.

In the pilot areas – Birmingham, Plymouth, Sefton, Milton Keynes and Northampton – psychologists are working collaboratively with the existing panels of justice and health officials. Together, the professionals ensure that magistrates and judges have the information they need to determine whether an offender should be required to receive treatment for their mental health, alcohol or drug issues.

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Expert Witness : Medico Legal

Latest MoJ report short on detail, expert complains

Latest MoJ report short on detail, expert complains

In September the Ministry of Justice published the results of a consultation on medical reporting within the package of whiplash and small claims track reforms – due to be implemented in April next year for road traffic cases. The consultation ran for a month in April-May, and the resultant document sets out the government’s policy choices.

It is, however – as seems par for the course in this area – very light on detail. That is the conclusion of Alistair Kinley, director of policy and government affairs at law firm BLM.

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Expert Witness : Technology

Government to plug mobile phone loophole

Government to plug mobile phone loophole

The government has confirmed it will close a legal loophole which has allowed drivers to escape prosecution for hand-held mobile phone use while behind the wheel.

At present, the law prevents drivers from using a hand-held mobile phone to call or text.

However, people caught filming or taking photos while driving have escaped punishment as lawyers have successfully argued that the activity does not fit into the ‘interactive communication’ currently outlawed by the legislation.

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Expert Witness : Environment

The fundamental right to be protected from the dangers of air pollution

The fundamental right to be protected from the dangers of air pollution

The British Safety Council welcomed the news of the High Court quashing the verdict of the 2014 inquest into the death of nine-year old Ella Kissi-Debrah, who suffered a fatal asthma attack. Her mother Rosamund has since campaigned for a fresh inquest, believing Ella’s death was caused by high levels of air pollution near her home in southeast London. It means that Ella could become the first person in the UK to have air pollution mentioned as a contributory factor on her death certificate.

Lawrence Waterman, Chairman of the British Safety Council, commented: “The ruling of the High Court is proof that since 2014 we have become much better informed about the dangers of air pollution. Air poll...

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Expert Witness : Animal & Farming

Dr WHO? by Dr Debbie Marsden

Dr WHO? by Dr Debbie Marsden

Dr Debbie Marsden, a leading equestrian expert with over 20 years professional experience of expert witness work, offers some advice on selecting the right expert in cases involving animals

In animal related cases, a veterinary surgeon is often the best expert, being generally regarded as an authority on animals and easily recognised by the word ‘veterinary’ – a protected title – and the letters MRCVS (Member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons) after various degrees.

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Parliament, Legislation And Public Sector

Home Office GDPR exemption risks new Windrush, says Law Society

Home Office GDPR exemption risks new Windrush, says Law Society

The Law Society of England and Wales has criticised the decision to exempt the Home Office from data access rules in the new Data Protection Act, which implements the widely-publicised GDPR. The move will inevitably lead to miscarriages of justice, the society has warned.

Law Society president Joe Egan said the immigration exemption in the legislation stripped accountability from Home Office decision making.

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Expert Witness: Events

Expert witness conference is hailed a success

Expert witness conference is hailed a success

On 8 November Bond Solon held the 25th Bond Solon Expert Witness Conference at Church House in Westminster. Demand for the conference had been particularly high, leading to a fully-booked event. Nearly 500 expert witnesses were in attendance and there were over 50 expert witnesses on the waiting list.

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Keeping compliant across the UK: Some differences in environmental legislation

In comparison with many other parts of the world, the UK has a commendable record of protecting the environment from damage and for working constructively with engineers and contractors to mitigate the effects of necessary operations, writes Simon Knott (pictured), managing director of environmental consultancy Naturally Compliant.

The relevant legislation is by its nature complex, and busy construction professionals engaged in engineering activities need to be up to speed with what they can and cannot do while remaining compliant with the regulations.

The picture is complicated by the fact that, since devolution of powers to the nations of the UK – a process which has accelerated in recent years – there are significant differences of approach between England and Wales and Scotland.

This article, which is for the purpose of information only and does not constitute legal advice, attempts to illustrate some of the main differences between the countries and to remove potential confusion over definition and context.

In Scotland, working on or near water is covered by the Water Environment (Controlled Activities) (Scotland) Regulations 2011 (as amended) while on the rest of the UK mainland the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2016 pertain.

In England and Wales, for engineering purposes, works on or near a main river will be completed under an exemption, a standard rule permit or bespoke permit. The Environment Agency has clearly defined what a main river is, through issuing an official map to make the information accessible.

However; any engineering works that has the potential to obstruct flow in an ordinary water course, requires consent from a flood defence consenting authority. An ordinary water course is defined as every river, stream, ditch, drain, sluice, sewer (other than a public sewer) and passage through which water flows and which does not form part of a main river.

In Scotland, work on any surface water on a 1:50,000 scale map requires either registration, a simple licence or a complex licence.

If the water in question, however, is not on a 1:50,000 scale map – for example a small burn which needs to be bridged – contractors do not need to contact the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA). But they do still have to follow the General Binding Rules for their activity or they may be deemed non-compliant.

The Scottish system is in some ways preferable, since everyone is working to the same guide-book. In England, contractors have to contact the Environment Agency or the flood defence consenting authority – usually the council – and interpretations of the regulations by individual council officers can vary.

There are differences, too, in the wording of the regulations regarding pollution. Scotland and the Controlled Activities Regulations refers to a pollution control regime where activities are controlled by General Binding Rules, Registrations, Simple Licences and Complex Licences. Importantly, this applies to the whole water environment and unlike some engineering activities, authorisations may be required for discharges to a receiving body not on a 1:50,000 scale map.

In England and Wales the Environmental Permitting Regulations are again relevant however your activity may be authorised by a Regulatory Position Statement, an Exemption, a Standard Rules Permit or a Bespoke Permit. However, the receiving body is defined as surface waters, e.g. rivers, streams, estuaries, lakes, canals, coastal waters, or on to or into the ground.

In regard to protected species, the Wildlife and Countryside Act covers the whole of the UK. However, through various acts, it is implemented differently. One of the major differences is that the Scottish wording of the Act includes often “Recklessly”, for example:

“Subject to the provisions of this Part, if any person intentionally or recklessly

  1. kills, injures or takes any wild bird;
  2. takes, damages, destroys or otherwise interferes with the nest of any wild bird while that nest is in use or being built”

Meaning that an offence is committed if harm is done – whether or not there was prior intent to harm.

In both cases, the legislation is well-intentioned and should be embraced by responsible professionals in the construction sector for whom best practice should in any case be second nature.

However, a breach of the regulations – even if unintentional – can have ramifications for companies far beyond the penalties imposed by the regulatory agencies. In our environmentally aware and hyper-connected age, reputations built over years can be damaged in a day.

No working contractor can know the ins and outs of all compliance requirements and that is why it is imperative to seek professional advice at the earliest stage in any proposed project, large or small.

For further information visit www.naturallycompliant.com