Health & Aged Care News Alert: Proposed amendments to expert evidence
Proposed amendments to the Evidence Act 1977 (Qld) (the Act), tabled by the Attorney General, may change the way in which expert witnesses provide their testimony in both civil and criminal cases in Queensland.
The amendments to the Act, introduced by the Criminal Law Amendment Bill 2014 (the Bill), aim to create a rebuttable presumption, subject to any rules of court, that expert witnesses will give evidence by telephone or video link. However, the court may still, either on its own initiative or on the application of a party, direct the expert to give evidence in person if satisfied it is in the interests of justice to do so.
In determining whether the interests of justice require an expert to give evidence in person, a court may consider such matters as:
- the nature and scope of the evidence the expert is to give in the proceedings;
- whether the use of telephone or video link is likely to affect the court’s or a jury’s ability to assess the credibility or reliability of the expert or the expert’s evidence;
- the availability of appropriate telephone or video facilities in the court to which the expert is to give evidence;
- any submission made to the court by the expert or any party to the proceedings about the way in which the expert should give evidence.
The amendments will affect expert witnesses in proceedings before the Supreme, District and Magistrates Courts of Queensland, the Coroners Court, the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal and any other State court established under an Act (for example, the Mental Health Court).
When will these amendments take effect?
The Bill has been referred to the Legal Affairs and Community Safety Committee (the Committee) for consideration, with written submissions on the proposal called for by no later than Friday 6 June 2014, and a public hearing scheduled for Wednesday 25 June 2014. Accordingly, we anticipate the Bill will proceed to a second reading and debate in several months’ time, once the Committee’s report has been tabled.
We will continue to keep you updated as the reform process continues.
Katharine Philp, Partner