The Times Letter to the Editor – Medical experts in criminal courts

Published in The Times on Thursday 10 May 2012

Medical experts in criminal courts

Sir, Michael Bishop’s comments (“No accountability for medical experts”, Letters, May 7) relate to the civil justice system where medical experts rarely give oral evidence and are usually consultants who have been trained and accredited in their specialty. In criminal cases, however, medical experts frequently give evidence in court, but, with the notable exception of forensic pathologists, most are general practitioners who do not have specialist training.

Although qualifications in medical jurisprudence have existed for decades, they are possessed by only a relatively small number of doctors. In 2005, with the establishment of the Faculty of Forensic & Legal Medicine by the Royal College of Physicians of London, it became possible to obtain training and accreditation by examination in the core components of clinical forensic medicine. Miscarriages of justice could be minimised by limiting expert medical evidence in criminal cases to those who can demonstrate competence by appropriate qualifications.

DR NEVILLE DAVIS
DR MICHAEL POWERS, QC

Hove, E Sussex