The Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) has just ruled that Dr Waney Squier gave irresponsible evidence outside her area of expertise. The doctor was an expert witness and gave evidence that injuries is some “shaken baby syndrome” cases to say that injuries were not consistent with non-accidental injury or were caused by other means. The MPTS found she had misrepresented research to support her views and brought the reputation of her profession into disrepute. She was “dogmatic, inflexible and unreceptive to any other view” which led her “to misrepresent and ‘cherry-pick’ from the literature.”
Dr Squier said: “I’ve done my best to give an opinion based on my experience, based on the best evidence I can find to support my view.”
All experts give opinion evidence based on the facts of the case and the relevant research. They must be methodical in their analysis and remember their primary duty is to the court. They must not let personal prejudice enter their reports. The must also only give evidence within their field of expertise. An honest opinion properly researched should not be a problem.
The recent case of Jones v Kaney has made experts liable in both contract and negligence for their opinions and the Jackson reforms in the civil courts have imposed stringent time and money constraints. Many experts must be thinking if it is worth doing the work as the potential consequences of giving evidence that is found wanting can be catastrophic. Dr Squier said: “I’ve done my best to give an opinion based on my experience, based on the best evidence I can find to support my view… backed by many, many people who are cleverer than I am, who are scientists”.
Experts will be watching what happens at the doctors disciplinary action.
Mark Solon is Director of Bond Solon (the UK’s leading expert witness training company) and Chairman of Wilmington Legal.