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Head injury
029 A judge's thoughts on the presentation of expert medical evidence in court
  1. C M Campbell

    Author information: Lord Campbell (Colin Malcolm Campbell QC LL.D) Lord Campbell was appointed a Judge of the Supreme Court in 2007. He was admitted to the Scottish Bar in 1977 and appointed Queen's Counsel in 1990. In 2001 he was elected Dean of the Faculty of Advocates, an office he held for three years. Before that he had been elected Vice Dean of the Faculty in 1997. He was a founder member of the Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland, and served as a part-time member of the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland. Earlier in his career he taught Scots law at the University of Edinburgh and was standing junior counsel to the Scottish Development Department.


Abstract: The opinion expressed by an expert witness in any branch of technical science depends for its effect on, among other things, his qualifications, skill and experience in that science. The function of the expert is not to present ready-made conclusions but to provide the tribunal of fact with material on which it can reach its own conclusions. An expert witness should provide independent assistance to the court by way of objective unbiased opinion in relation to matters within his expertise… An expert witness should never assume the role of an advocate. As with judicial or other opinions, what carries weight is the reasoning, not the conclusion. These quotations from case law illustrate three essential characteristics of a good expert witness:

  1. Relevant specialist knowledge

  2. Concentration on the educative function

  3. Independence and objectivity.

Most people will find giving evidence in court an uncomfortable, even alarming prospect. The environment is formal and unfamiliar. The adversarial process can appear hostile in nature and intent. For a professional person, a reputation can be on the line. It may de difficult to obtain non-partisan help in preparing for this important role. In the context of these three essential qualities, the purpose of this short talk is to address some of the issues and potential problems in a pragmatic and hopefully reassuring manner. It will offer some practical advice based on not only one person's view from the bench, but also from over 25 years experience at the bar.

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