United by Cuts: Exploring the Symmetry between How Lawyers and Expert Witnesses Experience Funding Cuts

  • Lucy Welsh
  • Amy Clarke


This article highlights that defence lawyers and expert witnesses appear to have experienced the impact of criminal legal aid funding cuts in similar ways. Despite the very different and specialized nature of their respective work, both sets of professional participants in the criminal process identify that funding cuts create problems around sustainability and quality of service.

While a growing body of literature has well documented, and continues to document, the perilous position that defence lawyers are in as a result of funding cuts, less is known about the effect of funding cuts on the work done by expert witnesses. To that end, we conducted two focus groups with expert witnesses during which we put to them some findings from our study of the impact of legal aid cuts on lawyers conducting appellate and Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) case work. During interviews in the CCRC study, it became apparent that defence lawyers were struggling to instruct expert witnesses, so we wanted to explore that issue more with expert witnesses themselves. In doing so, we discovered a significant overlap in the concerns expressed by both defence lawyers and expert witnesses regarding the ways in which their work was affected by funding cuts.

Keywords: expert witnesses; legal aid; defence lawyers; sustainability; quality; morale.


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Special Section: Declining Legal Aid and the Implications for Access to Justice