THE NSW Attorney-General’s Department is understood to be considering the release of an options paper looking into whether further sanctions for unethical or unprofessional conduct by expert witnesses are warranted.
A government working party is also going to begin a new public consultation before the end of the year on whether to recommend the implementation of the NSW Law Reform Commission’s (LRC) year-long inquiry into expert witnesses, tabled in Parliament in September.
Supreme Court Justice John Hamilton, chair of the Attorney-General’s working party on civil procedure, says his working group has agreed to a request from the Attorney-General Bob Debus to consider the LRC report and to advise on whether it will recommend [its implementation].
“Although there was a wide consultation for the expert witness inquiry before, we are going to conduct a new series of consultations and [will be] asking for a wide range of views,” Justice Hamilton said.
However, he stressed all of the LRC’s recommendations were to be implemented by amendment to the Uniform Civil Procedure Rules (UCPRs), so even if the working party says the LRC’s proposals should be implemented, the independent UCPR Committee will make the final decision.
The Attorney-General also asked the working party to consider whether there should be further sanctions introduced for unethical and unprofessional conduct and if so, how they should be implemented.
However, Justice Hamilton said in light of plans by the Attorney-General’s Department to release an options paper on that issue, the working party had decided it was not yet “clear what the proposals will be … and it could be too early for us to decide”.
A spokesperson for the Attorney-General’s Department could not confirm whether or not an options paper would be released, but said the department was “looking at expert witnesses”. “It is still a work in progress … and further down the track we’ll be able to say something about that, but at the moment it is too early,” he said.
The civil procedure working party is planning to launch its consultation before 16 December.
See ‘Prosecuting the witness’ this issue