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Care Proceedings: Expert Evidence

Volume 480: debated on Friday 17 October 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what assessment he has made of the results of the review of family law cases following the Cannings judgment; and what steps he is taking to increase confidence in medical expert witnesses in child protection cases. (225315)

I have been asked to reply.

Following the statement made by the then Minister for Children my right hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Margaret Hodge) on 23 February 2004 (in response to the Court of Appeal’s judgment in the appeal against the conviction of Angela Cannings) the then Department for Education and Skills issued Circular LAC (2004)5 to local authorities on 25 February 2004. This asked local authorities “to consider those cases that are affected by the Attorney General’s review”.

The Association of Directors of Social Services subsequently undertook a survey of local authority cases. The results were placed in the Library on 17 June and 16 November 2004. The then Minister for Children made a statement to the House on 17 June summarising the results of the first stage of the survey, and on 16 November the second stage of the survey.

The Legal Services Commission is working with the Department of Health to pilot key proposals from the Chief Medical Officer’s 2006 report—“Bearing Good Witness: Proposals for reforming the delivery of medical expert evidence in family law cases”. Once implemented, these important reforms will help ensure that the family courts in England have access to the best information when making decisions that will affect the lives of some of our most vulnerable children.