Dr Saal Seneviratne Expert Witness in Psychiatry

My Views

  • June 10 2023
  • 2:56 pm
  • Dr Saal Seneviratne

My ideas

The role of the expert witness service is to use his expertise to advise the Court, and enable them to make informed legal decisions about the mental health of the subject before them.

Mental health issues related to legal proceedings can appear complex, but, following the Richard Feynman principle “You must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.” & “If you understand it Quantum Physics, you don’t understand it”.

Using this principle, (which sounds like an antinomy) my aim is to offer this expertise in an easy to digest, succinct manner. In my view, this approach is to add clarity for the advocates, and Courts.

To illuminate, or to confuse and provide obstacles for the Court. I see Experts and Barristers tie up the Court in knots sometimes. The adversarial nature of Court can be infectious, and medical professionals fool themselves into believing that they can join in. But we stray from the path when we do so. Opinions on topics like competency/capacity, sanity, fitness, disposal and illness, can be addressed and communicated clearly.

Differences in opinion provide an opportunity for the Court. If handled maturely, by experts, and cross examination, it can inform  and teach, without muddying the waters, so decision making becomes easier. The egos of the experts, and the notion that a disagreement means one opinion is wrong – ie the Expert is lacking – is where it descends into chaos.

Then we have a public spectacle of a spanner in the works. We would be wise to follow the line “What others think of you is none of your business”

I do not think that the goal is to provide accurate, informed opinions and testimony – the Court take this as a given, – it is a standard which most experts can satisfy. To deliver it in an unambiguous, digestible format to the Court, is the objective. The expert’s preparedness and intent to do so, is a mark of their expertise, empathy and experience. It is the quality that instructing solicitors and Court are looking for. Someone who can roll with the punches, and is mature enough remain open, and avoid defensiveness