In advance of the release of A Guide to Expert Witness Evidence by Mark Tottenham, Emma Jane Prendergast, Ciaran Joyce and Hugh Madden, this week's TOTW offers an introduction to the area of expert evidence.
(1) Evidence of fact or opinion given by a person who would not be competent to give such evidence unless he had a special skill or expertise: Civil Liability and Courts Act 2004 s.2(1). In a personal injuries action, the court may appoint such approved persons as it considers appropriate to carry out investigations into, and give expert evidence in relation to, such matters as the court directs (ibid 2004 Act s.20). A party to a personal injuries action is required to cooperate with such appointed expert.
(2) Evidence of fact or opinion given by an expert witness: Criminal Procedure Act 2010 s.34(9).
It has been held that there was no absolute requirement that expert evidence be given in support of a plaintiff's claim, however such evidence was a convenient way of establishing the general practice; where something was not a matter which required special study or expertise, the court was in a position to draw its own conclusions: O'Neill v Dunnes Stores  IESC 53; [2011 SC] 1 IR 325; [2011 SC] 1 ILRM 461.
In its Consultation Paper on Expert Evidence (LRC CP 52 - 2008), the Law Reform Commission has recommended that the courts should continue to be entitled to allow expert evidence to inform and educate the judge and jury about the background to the ultimate issue where necessary, whilst emphasising that the ultimate decision on such issues is for the court and not the expert. See “Dumb Witness” by Yvonne Daly in Law Society Gazette (Jan/Feb 2009) 30; “Witness Protection” by Gail O'Keefe in Law Society Gazette (July 2011) 30.
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