What is an expert witness service?
Being party to a court case is never an easy position, but having confidence in an expert witness who can navigate technical issues and provide solutions to problems, can make a huge difference.
An expert witness is a person whose level of specialised knowledge or skill in a particular field qualifies them to present their opinion about the facts of a case during legal proceedings.
At Butt Miller chartered accountants, we have a team of experienced professionals that act as expert witnesses in a broad range of cases.
The role of the expert witness
Expert witnesses may be instructed to provide a specialist opinion in all sorts of settings, including criminal courts, family courts, civil courts and tribunals.
An expert witness is required to provide impartial, opinion-based evidence within their field of expertise to assist in the resolution of a dispute. Expert Witnesses produce high-quality reports of their findings, may be involved in court proceedings and may be called to give evidence.
Whilst there are judges who are experts in finance and taxes, most judges prefer to have reports prepared independently by experts in their own fields. The team at Butt Miller has many years of experience in financial and tax matters, so we can guide you through the process and produce the reports requested by the Courts in the specified format.
Expert evidence is invaluable in assisting courts when arguments become technical or specialist. As a result, solicitors instructing an expert witness must take great care when selecting the right person.
The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service website describes the role of the expert witness as such:
“Experts are the only type of witness whose opinion carries weight in court. We involve expert witnesses in court cases because of your specialist technical insights. Your evidence brings to the justice process what Crown and defence legal teams cannot do alone. As such, expert evidence is valuable and sometimes critical.”
The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service
When do you need an expert witness?
An expert witness will be required any time that there is a technical issue to be resolved in a court case, which can cover a wide range of subjects and professions.
An individual with an accounting qualification would be required to provide an opinion whenever the court is considering a course of action which is expected to give rise to tax charges. In addition to advising on the anticipated tax implications of a transaction, the expert witness can also provide guidance on opportunities for reducing the prospective tax charge they identify in the process.
Given the requirement for expert witnesses to be independent from the parties to the dispute, the expert should not already be an adviser to one or more of the parties.
In divorce proceedings, the Court will often require a report on the Capital Gains Tax implications of transferring assets between parties for the purposes of a financial settlement.
This can be a complex calculation, and in addition to calculating any tax that can arise out of the transfer, the Court will want to understand the options available to the parties for mitigating any tax charge.
How do expert witness services work?
The referral to an expert witness service will often be ordered by a judge, in which case instructions are issued from the legal advisers to the expert witness. However, the parties to the case may seek advice without instruction from the court.
Generally, a single expert will be appointed jointly by the parties to act as an impartial adviser.
There will be a list of information that is needed to prepare the report, which may be provided in the initial instructions, or the adviser may issue a separate request for more details.
Further information may be needed in compiling the report, and all parties will be required to agree on the facts of the case for the report writer to give sensible, workable solutions.
Expert witnesses can offer various options if there is an area of disagreement that cannot be resolved.
Instructions and interaction are mostly in writing by email these days, but there may be times when a face-to-face assessment is needed, depending on the particular circumstances.
What is in expert witness reports?
In addition to the opinion that the expert is providing, the report will detail the professional qualifications, membership of any regulatory bodies and experience of the writer to establish that they fit the relevant criteria for the question raised.
The expert is required to certify that their responsibility is solely to the court. This gives the court quality assurance in relation to the service provided.
How much do expert witness services cost?
The cost of the services will depend on the nature of the advice required. A formal report in relation to a single property will start at £600 plus VAT.
Why choose Butt Miller Chartered Accountants to be your expert witness
Our team has many years of experience advising on complex transactions, which is essential for high-quality reports. We also understand our duty towards the court in relation to the presentation and support of expert witness reports.