Acting as an expert psychiatric witness can be rewarding, but there are potential costs and pitfalls, such that the role should be undertaken only in an informed manner. With reference to the recent disciplinary cases of Dr Richard Pool and Dr Waney Squier, and a judgment of the Supreme Court, advice is offered to potential expert psychiatric witnesses. Suggestions are made as to training, the negotiation of instructions, the citation of published literature, the construction of expert opinion and how to ensure compliance with the ethical duties of the expert witness.
•Understand how psychiatric trainees can be prepared for assisting the courts and tribunals in the administration of justice
•Appreciate the importance of engaging in a frank discussion with potential instructing solicitors, prior to instruction, regarding areas of expertise and working knowledge, providing a balanced interpretation of the psychiatric literature and giving reasoned opinions that withstand logical analysis
•Know what processes can be used to enhance compliance with the ethical responsibilities of the expert psychiatric witness