Being the expert in a witness box can be a daunting experience, but preparation is key, according to a new book on the subject that is launched today (15 March) by The Nautical Institute.
Guidelines for the Maritime Expert Witness provides invaluable assistance and advice to those who are new to giving expert evidence and serves as a timely reminder to seasoned hands.
With a Foreword by Sir Julian Flaux PC QC, Chancellor of the High Court, this book continues the themes developed in the NI’s popular Guidelines for Collecting Maritime Evidence Volumes 1 and 2, by following the dispute resolution process to its conclusion, either in court or in an arbitration or mediation hearing.
The book’s contributors – mariner expert witnesses, solicitors, barristers, mediators, arbitrators and a retired judge – emphasise the need for the expert to understand that their primary duty is to the court or resolution panel. They must be able to demonstrate their knowledge, independence, integrity and credibility under cross-examination, the authors stress.
“The book provides a great deal of useful practical advice and emphasises some of the most important aspects of expert evidence, at least from a judge’s or arbitrator’s perspective,” said Sir Julian Flaux.
“These include that expert reports should be clearly and cogently written, with objective analysis; that the expert is independent from his or her appointor and is an expert not an advocate; that the expert should not stray beyond his or her field of expertise; that expert evidence from the witness box should be given in a dispassionate and non-confrontational manner; and that limiting expert evidence at the trial or hearing to what is in issue is critical, hence the importance of the experts’ meeting and the joint memorandum.”
John Noble, a Fellow of The Nautical Institute and technical editor of Vols 1 and 2 (2016 and 2019) of Guidelines for Collecting Maritime Evidence, said The Nautical Institute had been most fortunate in acquiring input from a range of experienced contributors who offer advice and commentary on the role and purpose of expert witnesses in the dispute resolution processes.
“This volume will be read by mariners and others who may be contemplating a career in the dispute resolution fields; equally, many readers will have an interest in developing their wider knowledge in maritime matters,” he said.
“A key to being a good expert witness is preparation. Readers who have sat professional oral examinations will be only too aware that an unprepared candidate is doomed to fail. Being an expert in the witness box can be a daunting experience, similar to sitting an oral exam.
“Increasingly, clients will need to be satisfied that not only has their expert the required expertise, but also holds a good groundwork in the legal processes and some form of formal training may be a pre-requisite. This edition is primarily based on the English legal system simply because its dispute resolution process in maritime matters is highly advanced. Many other jurisdictions base their own jurisprudence on the English legal system,” he stressed.