Briefing: Law: Pressure put on expert witnesses

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The Independent Online
Some solicitors have "improperly" asked expert witnesses used in legal actions to change their opinion, according to a survey published yesterday.

Seventy per cent of the experts questioned said they had been asked to modify their reports, though the vast majority of this was for acceptable clarification or matters of style. However, Tony Shepherd, of Bond Solon, who train expert witnesses, said a small number of lawyers had tried to get opinions modified - which was improper.

Mr Shepherd said that among all the 604 experts asked, none had agreed to alter their opinions to suit solicitors, which was reassuring, he said. It meant that the problem of so-called "hired gun" expert witnesses, who may completely disagree with one another according to which "side" they appear for, was not yet a problem in Britain he said.

Among the witnesses, who may be medical, scientific or other forms of experts, nearly 30 per cent now advertise their services while around 40 per cent have undergone training.

The 1997 Expert Witness Survey, Bond Solon, 11 Haymarket, London SW1 4BP; price: pounds 10

- Michael Streeter, Legal Affairs Correspondent