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Expert Evidence in Criminal Proceedings

Volume 570: debated on Thursday 21 November 2013

Today, I have placed in the Libraries of both Houses a copy of the Government response to the Law Commission’s report “Expert Evidence in Criminal Proceedings”. The Law Commission’s investigation followed concerns expressed by the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee in 2005. The report was extremely thorough, and concluded that legislation was needed to bring existing common law provisions into statute, to provide judges with additional powers to exclude expert evidence, and to create a new “reliability test”. However, administration of this test would require additional pre-trial hearings, which have cost implications to which the Government cannot, at this time, commit.

Rather than seek to bring in new legislation, I intend to ask the Criminal Procedure Rule Committee to make changes to the rules relating to the timing and content of experts’ reports. Although this will not provide judges with additional powers—as proposed by the Law Commission—it will put them in a position to use their existing powers more effectively, by ensuring that they have more information at an earlier stage about any expert evidence which it is proposed to adduce.