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18 FEB 2010

CARE PROCEEDINGS: Re B (Evidence: Expert Evidence)

(Court of Appeal; Wilson LJ and Pitchford J; 18 February 2010)

The Official Solicitor was instructed on behalf of parents with disabilities. The local authority had instructed a consultant psychiatrist and a family support service had been jointly instructed. They recommended that all 5 children be placed away from the parents permanently, however, they also advised that a child and family psychiatrist assess the family's needs. The local authority gave the task to an in-house team of social workers.

The Official Solicitor applied for permission to instruct a consultant child and adolescent forensic psychiatrist. The judge refused on basis that would provide nothing new and would involve unnecessary delay.

The appeal was allowed. The expertise of social workers is different to that of psychiatrists. Courts should be very slow to reject the application of the Official Solicitor to instruct an expert whose opinion would be pertinent to a case concerning an incapacitated litigant.

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