A Climate Credits case has raised some interesting questions for the Safeguarding community, as an ‘expert’ put himself and the prosecution in a difficult position.
Read on to find out how he landed himself in trouble, and how this affects us.
When Is An Expert Not An Expert?
The case discussed here doesn’t come from family law. It comes from a very niche area of law called Climate Credits.
As part of their investigations the police instructed an expert to look at the allegations and to give an opinion. The expert gave an opinion. That was presented to the defence, as is required. And the defence commissioned their own assessment and their own report.
The defence commissioned their report from the world leading expert in Climate Credits.
For some reason, the prosecution expert contacted the defence expert, and asked them not to give evidence.
This prompted a hearing behind closed doors with the lawyers present, but without a jury.
Through the process of cross-examination by the defence solicitor, it transpired that the prosecution’s expert couldn’t remember an awful lot about his educational history. And in terms of the area he was giving evidence in, he had seen a documentary in which it had been mentioned once. He’d never read anything produced by the defence’s expert, who was a world-leading expert on the matter.
This is an extreme case, and you may be questioning the relevance to the child protection arena.
But it is relevant.
I’ve seen practitioners try to go the extra mile to help a family, by stepping a little outside of their sphere of expertise, perhaps beyond what they should be doing. They’re thinking of the bigger picture, of the best case scenario for the young person or the child that they’re working with.
Now, on the one hand, that is really helpful for the child, and it potentially helps them out of a very difficult situation.
However, it can be very dangerous for the professional or the practitioner who is taking that step. It can lead to all sorts of questions being asked about the process, the reasoning behind it, and the authority that person had to take that particular action.
And that can leave the organization and the individual open to scrutiny that it simply doesn’t need.
If you feel yourself creeping a little beyond your area of expertise, be aware of your actions. What are you doing? Why are you doing it? Is that within your remit? If you are assessing somebody, or you are helping a family out, are you doing so appropriately? Are you doing so within the bounds of your professional qualifications? Are you slightly stepping outside of that because that would, in your opinion, be in the best outcome for the child, and damn the consequences?
I’ve seen this happen, with the best of intentions, but it has caused untold problems.
In the case of the Climate Credit expert, there are now 20 other cases which will be re-examined, at significant cost to the public purse. And I have no doubt there’ll be an inquiry into how this person came to be instructed in an area when he had next to no qualifications and certainly no expertise.
It’s a warning to all of us to make sure that when we are taking work on, or we are undertaking instructions, that we’re doing so within our professional boundaries, and within the remit of our knowledge and skills, so that are not overstepping our mark to the point where we’re putting ourselves at risk.
The Safeguarding Association Here To Help You
Helping people decide whether they’re on the right side of their professional boundaries is one of the reasons I established the Safeguarding Association.
The Safeguarding Association helps non-lawyers, who work within the family justice arena, navigate the processes and procedures with confidence, so that you can spend less time in the witness box, and more time where it matters, doing the work you’re amazing at. This includes safeguarding leads, head teachers, social workers and court experts. Our community is a safe space where you can guidance and support.
The information contained above is provided for information purposes only. The contents of this blog are not intended to amount to advice and you should not rely on any of the contents of this blog. Professional advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from taking any action as a result of the contents of this blog. Safeguarding Practitioners Ltd & Kate Young disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on any of the contents of this blog.