Forensic Medical Examiners (FME) are independent senior doctors of medicine who specialise in investigations of death and injury that is unusual or suspicious. They may be called upon to assist in cases of often violent crime. A solicitor working on a criminal case will typically require the expertise of a forensic medical examiner to provide comprehensive analysis of specialised medical material that will in turn serve to strengthen their case. At Foresight we have a UK-wide pool of medical examiners whose training and clinical practice has been vital to the work of solicitors. We want to share why you need to know about forensic medical examiners and how they can assist in your case.
Forensic Medical Examiners, or FMEs, are a disparate group of doctors; some will have trained to consultant levels in surgery, gynaecology, paediatrics or other clinical speciality. Others will have a background in general medicine. Their experience of Forensic Medicine will be equally variable, some will have acquired their forensic knowledge examining complainants of sexual assault, whilst others will have concentrated on examining children for injuries after physical or sexual abuse. Some will have gained their skills working in custody suites assessing the fitness of persons to be detained in custody to be interviewed and the assessment of mental state with a view to admission to hospital under the Mental Health Act.
All forensic physicians will be registered medical practitioners; a doctor registered with the General Medical Council under the Medical Act 1983. The important element for the forensic medical examiners is evidence of higher training. There are the usual academic qualifications such as a Masters Degree in Forensic Medicine or a Masters Degree in Law. Whilst most LLMs are taught, there is also provision for a research degree in law that can evidence very focussed knowledge.
The professional route depends to some extent on the background of the forensic physician; surgeons, paediatricians, obstetricians, psychiatrist and A&E doctors will be members of the Royal College associate with their speciality.
Professional evidence of expertise in Forensic medicine is demonstrated by possession of a Diploma in Medical Jurisprudence awarded by the Society of Apothecaries and for younger clinicians, awards from the Faculty of Forensic and Legal Medicine, a faculty of the Royal College of Physicians
Given good material such as medical records and, original photographs, the services of a Forensic medical examiner can go beyond the production of a report. Conference with the Forensic medical examiner well before the trial can be most helpful to the case. In line with the expert’s duty to the court the FME is well placed to liaise with the prosecution expert to produce a joint statement.
The difficulty facing solicitors is finding a forensic medical examiner that has the skills and expertise to address the medical issues in the case. The solution goes beyond choosing a Forensic medical examiner with experience of working in a Sexual Assault Referral Centre to produce a report in rape cases; it requires the selection of a FME who would be comfortable with all aspects of the case. There may be elements of a case where the wider skills of the Forensic medical examiner can contribute to the case. For example, Forensic medical examiners with a background in general practice can place the Forensics in a wider context.
The process of finding the most suitable forensic medical examiner for your case can be very time consuming and consequently add stress to an already pressing workload. It requires research and contacting several experts to make arrangements for meetings and court appearances, if necessary. We understand that your time is very valuable and which is why Foresight has an extensive network of approved forensic medical examiners ready to be deployed. Contact us for a free consultation with one of our case managers.