Press release: Medical Experts in the Family Court

Discusses ‘clash’ of law and medicine in the family court; With the family court system overwhelmed, are we sacrificing justice for the family? Where is court child protection work going in future? 

Embargo, Thursday 19 Jan, 7pm

We would like to invite you to a lecture and discussion, Medical Experts in the Family Court, by Emeritus Professor Jo Delahunty KC, barrister at 4PB and Professor Owen Arthurs, Radiologist at GOSH on Thursday 19 Jan.

They will talk frankly about the interface (and sometimes clash) between law and medicine in the family courtroom when it comes to cases of alleged non-accidental injury, especially shaken baby allegations.This promises to be a dynamic, thought-provoking session between passionate, experienced child protection experts.

“The children and families at the heart of these cases deserve more than the poverty-stricken, over-burdened family court system can offer them.” Emeritus Professor of Law Jo Delahunty will say. “Those working in the child protection system, lawyers, experts, judges, the court staff, do so because they believe it is vital work. But many of us are running out of energy and faith.  With the unrelenting pressure on scarce court time,  a dearth of experts who can turn reports around at a child’s pace, and the drive to cut cases down to get more through the system, more quickly, to keep up with the tsunami of work, we run the risk of losing the ‘justice’ in the family justice system. The experts we use play a vital part in securing the best evidence to decide a child’s fate. We need more of them. These cases matter. They must be treated with the seriousness the outcome warrants.  When the potential outcome  of a budget-driven system is that you might lose your child, be permanently severed from them and the children they might have, that cost saving is paid by those who are least able to make their case to be heard.“  

Delahunty and Arthurs will ask, do we need medical experts in court when we have treating clinicians? Do we need medical experts at all? What do they do that is worth the delay and expense? Does courtroom culture respect those who have the experience and expertise to be called upon as experts? Why do we have such a dearth of experts in some child-related disciplines? Why do barristers and experts do the jobs they do in court? Why bother? Does the court need to have a fact-finding hearing at all -  and if it does- at what cost to the child and fairness of proceedings?

They will compare and contrast their long experience in the child protection field and, looking critically at recent developments, ask, are we sacrificing justice for the family on the altar of necessity – not because that’s in the best interests of the child but because the family court system can no longer service all the cases who come before it as it used to?

The speakers will talk frankly about what drives them to do the jobs they do and how they approach their task in court when it comes to preparing for a court case and testing the evidence in it. They will explore the future direction of court child protection work and ask whether the system they work in is fit for purpose.

This lecture will be introduced and closed by Leslie Samuels KC of Pump Court Chambers, Barrister, Deputy High Court Judge.


Notes to Editors

You can sign up to watch the hybrid lecture online or in person; or email us for an embargoed transcript or speak to the Professors: / 07799 738 439

Read more about Professor Owen Arthurs, who is widely recognized as one of the world’s leading clinical researchers in children’s imaging. 

Read more about Emeritus Professor Jo Delahunty KC, who is one of the UK’s leading barristers specialising in cases concerned with families and children. She was Gresham Professor of Law between 2016 and 2020.