Practice Note CM 7

J L B Allsop, Chief Justice 04 June 2013

Expert witnesses in proceedings in the Federal Court of Australia

RTF version (61.9 kb)

Practice Note CM 7 issued on 1 August 2011 is revoked with effect from midnight on 3 June 2013 and the following Practice Note is substituted.


1. This Practice Note commences on 4 June 2013.


2. Rule 23.12 of the Federal Court Rules 2011 requires a party to give a copy of the following guidelines to any witness they propose to retain for the purpose of preparing a report or giving evidence in a proceeding as to an opinion held by the witness that is wholly or substantially based on the specialised knowledge of the witness (see Part 3.3 - Opinion of the Evidence Act 1995 (Cth)).

3. The guidelines are not intended to address all aspects of an expert witness’s duties, but are intended to facilitate the admission of opinion evidence[1], and to assist experts to understand in general terms what the Court expects of them.   Additionally, it is hoped that the guidelines will assist individual expert witnesses to avoid the criticism that is sometimes made (whether rightly or wrongly) that expert witnesses lack objectivity, or have coloured their evidence in favour of the party calling them.


1. General Duty to the Court[2]

1.1 An expert witness has an overriding duty to assist the Court on matters relevant to the expert’s area of expertise.

1.2 An expert witness is not an advocate for a party even when giving testimony that is necessarily evaluative rather than inferential.

1.3 An expert witness’s paramount duty is to the Court and not to the person retaining the expert.

2. The Form of the Expert’s Report[3]

2.1 An expert’s written report must comply with Rule 23.13 and therefore must

(a) be signed by the expert who prepared the report; and

(b) contain an acknowledgement at the beginning of the report that the expert has read, understood and complied with the Practice Note; and

(c) contain particulars of the training, study or experience by which the expert has acquired specialised knowledge; and

(d) identify the questions that the expert was asked to address; and

(e) set out separately each of the factual findings or assumptions on which the expert’s opinion is based; and

(f) set out separately from the factual findings or assumptions each of the expert’s opinions; and

(g) set out the reasons for each of the expert’s opinions; and

(ga) contain an acknowledgment that the expert’s opinions are based wholly or substantially on the specialised knowledge mentioned in paragraph (c) above[4]; and

(h) comply with the Practice Note.

2.2 At the end of the report the expert should declare that "[the expert] has made all the inquiries that [the expert] believes are desirable and appropriate and that no matters of significance that [the expert] regards as relevant have, to [the expert’s] knowledge, been withheld from the Court."

2.3 There should be included in or attached to the report the documents and other materials that the expert has been instructed to consider.

2.4 If, after exchange of reports or at any other stage, an expert witness changes the expert’s  opinion, having read another expert’s report or for any other reason, the change should be communicated as soon as practicable (through the party’s lawyers) to each party to whom the expert witness’s report has been provided and, when appropriate, to the Court[5].

2.5 If an expert’s opinion is not fully researched because the expert considers that insufficient data are available, or for any other reason, this must be stated with an indication that the opinion is no more than a provisional one.  Where an expert witness who has prepared a report believes that it may be incomplete or inaccurate without some qualification, that qualification must be stated in the report.

2.6 The expert should make it clear if a particular question or issue falls outside the relevant field of expertise.

2.7 Where an expert’s report refers to photographs, plans, calculations, analyses, measurements, survey reports or other extrinsic matter, these must be provided to the opposite party at the same time as the exchange of reports[6].

3. Experts’ Conference

3.1 If experts retained by the parties meet at the direction of the Court, it would be improper for an expert to be given, or to accept, instructions not to reach agreement.  If, at a meeting directed by the Court, the experts cannot reach agreement about matters of expert opinion, they should specify their reasons for being unable to do so.

Chief Justice
4 June 2013

[1] As to the distinction between expert opinion evidence and expert assistance see Evans Deakin Pty Ltd v Sebel Furniture Ltd [2003] FCA 171 per Allsop J at [676].

[2]The "Ikarian Reefer" (1993) 20 FSR 563 at 565-566.

[3] Rule 23.13.

[4] See also Dasreef Pty Limited v Nawaf Hawchar [2011] HCA 21.

[5] The "Ikarian Reefer" [1993] 20 FSR 563 at 565

[6] The "Ikarian Reefer" [1993] 20 FSR 563 at 565-566. See also Ormrod "Scientific Evidence in Court" [1968] Crim LR 240