Module SXL-3148:
Expert Evidence in Court

Module Facts

Run by School of Law

10 Credits or 5 ECTS Credits

Semester 1

Organiser: Dr John Olsson

Overall aims and purpose

This module focuses on the role of the expert witness in the England and Wales jurisdiction, although the principles apply to expert evidence in common law jurisdictions generally, and these are largely compatible with the requirements of experts in the other UK jurisdictions and the Republic of Ireland. The expert has duties to both the court and to those who commission work from him. Slightly different rules apply depending on whether the case is a civil claim, a family law case, or a criminal prosecution. Knowledge of standards of expert evidence such as the Daubert standard and the Frye standard. Cognitive bias.

Course content

The centrality of expert evidence in modern civil and criminal litigation. The origin of expert evidence in courts. The growth of expertise in the last thirty years. The duty of the expert to the court, the duty of the expert to the professional and lay clients. The ethics of giving expert evidence, including ethical dilemmas. Procedural matters regarding expert evidence. Statute and case law relating to expert evidence. How courts evaluate the acceptability of expert evidence. Admissibility of hearsay evidence in the context of expert evidence. The ‘instruction’ of experts. Experts’ continuing duty to courts. Expert witness training. The ethics of contact between experts and lawyers / police officers. The ethics of research in the expert witness context.

Assessment Criteria

good

In addition to the above, needs to display an understanding of the key ethical questions for experts and how they approach the task of giving ethical evidence, including the handling of ethical dilemmas. Ability to think about the difficulties of answering questions under cross examination and the limitations this poses on the expert’s task of assisting the court. An understanding of the question of objectivity in the expert.

excellent

In addition to the above, needs to display a mastery of the specialised field of expert evidence, and having a systematic knowledge of the structure of expert evidence in a case. In addition, understanding the context of expert evidence within the framework of a prosecution, or civil, or family case. Ability to research into questions relating to expert neutrality, impartiality and objectivity and to assess how the litigation process can undermine the expert’s objectivity. A more advanced understanding of techniques, methodology and ways of appraising courtroom discourse techniques. Must be able to evaluate contributions of courtroom participants, research inventively and originally into these questions and be able to apply research knowledge to the task. An ability to evaluate scholarship in the field, in addition to showing a conceptual understanding of the field.

threshold

Displays ability to understand, within the context of having a specialised knowledge, the basics of expert evidence, and an awareness of how an expert should approach the task of giving evidence. Ability to research and apply research knowledge to the task showing a developed understanding of the techniques used in Ability to research and apply research knowledge to the task showing a developed understanding of the techniques used in the giving and questioning of expert evidence, and an ability to understand and evaluate the scholarship in the field. Understanding the need for expert objectivity.

Learning outcomes

  1. Develop an understanding of the principles of expert evidence and the ethical questions surrounding expert evidence.

  2. Understand the effect of expert evidence on the outcome of a case.

  3. Gain knowledge of how lawyers are able to undermine expert evidence in order to promote their own case.

  4. Understand courtroom procedures relating to expert evidence.

  5. Understand, analyse and evaluate the role of expert evidence, and the procedures in UK courts of admitting expert evidence.

  6. Understand and analyse key concepts in relation to expert evidence, especially in relation to the expert’s duty to the court.

  7. Analyse and evaluate how judges and juries respond to expert evidence in the courtroom.

  8. Understanding judicial intervention in the giving of oral expert evidence.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
Written assignment 100

Teaching and Learning Strategy

Hours
Private study 78
Seminar

The teaching strategy will consist of 11 x 2 hour seminars. For each session, students will be expected to have prepared essential reading together with any special assignments given for that particular class. Essential preparatory readings will be notified to students in advance or provided in advance of class.

22

Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Computer Literacy - Proficiency in using a varied range of computer software
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting
  • Self-awareness & Reflectivity - Having an awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, aims and objectives. Able to regularly review, evaluate and reflect upon the performance of yourself and others

Subject specific skills

Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of advanced level legal theories and legal findings, related to topics like the functioning of legal institutions, criminal offenses, criminal procedure, legal culture, and the social function of law. In addition, developing an understanding of ethical questions in the conduct of trials, with particular relevance to expert evidence.

Resources

Resource implications for students

Redmayne, M. 2001. Expert Evidence and Criminal Justice. Oxford: Oxford University Press. James, M., and Hodgkinson, T. 2006. Expert Evidence: Law and Practice. Andover, Hants: Sweet and Maxwell.

Courses including this module

Optional in courses: