Our Belgian institutional member ‘ie-net‘ publishes book on statute and deontology of the court expert

Court experts use their extensive professional and legal knowledge to give advice to the court that can be very important for interim decisions in criminal investigations and for the final decision in a lawsuit. They therefore have an important social mission to find out the true facts in both criminal and civil cases. Proper justice is not possible without good and correctly acting court experts. In 2007 important changes were made in Belgium in the landscape of judicial expert investigation, in which, after the introduction of the Judicial Code in 1967, little or no change had essentially occurred as far as expert investigations were concerned. It was therefore high time to take a close look at the statute and deontology of the court expert. Didier De Buyst, PhD & MSc in engineering and court expert, Johan Boon, judge in the Court of Appeal of Brussels, and Toon Lysens, honorary magistrate and currently chairman of the Acceptance Commission of the National Register of Court Experts (NRDG-RNEJ) established following the amendment of the law of 2014, are daily involved in judicial expert investigations. Based on their rich knowledge and experience built up over several decades, they joined forces to publish a voluminous book on the theme. The result – ‘Statute and deontology of the court expert’ (only available in Dutch) – has become a voluminous work of more than 300 pages, intended for court experts from all disciplines, magistrates and lawyers and for anyone who comes into contact with judicial expert investigations. Authors with knowledge and experience from all possible expert associations and professions have contributed: dentists, maritime experts, land surveyors, landscape architects, pathologists, automotive experts, auditors, pharmacists, architects, psychologists, agricultural experts, etc. Vincent Van Quickenborne, Belgian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Justice, wrote the foreword. The book was officially presented during the online colloquium on February 8th, ‘Short and long-term challenges in expert investigations’ organized by ie-net Society of Engineers (Dutch-speaking engineers of Belgium), within which there is a subgroup for engineers who act as court experts and/or as mediators.

After an introduction by Egbert Lox, chairman of ie-net, and Didier De Buyst, coordinator of the ie-net Subgroup Engineer-Experts & Mediators and also court expert, the Minister of Justice emphasized the crucial role of court experts, who ensure that magistrates can make very judicious decisions:

“Judicial experts are indispensable for a high-quality justice system.”The challenges at Justice are of course the slow speed at which it is working and the rather old-fashioned and administrative way of doing things. A third major problem is impunity. Some sentences, such as prison terms under three years, are not carried out. Penal fines are only paid in 30% of the cases. That creates a sense of injustice.”

In the past, attempts have been made several times to make the justice system in Belgium work more efficiently, but often it was limited to good intentions.

“Still, I think it can work this time. We invest heavily in Justice. The budget is approximately two billion euros and by 2024 another half a billion euros will be added. We want to eliminate the judicial backlog by recruiting 1.400 extra people and we are investing heavily in the digitization of justice. For this we are calling on the European recovery fund, which is making 137 million euros available to us.”

In doing so, the minister is mainly aiming for far-reaching computerization and digitization.

The organizers were able to arouse the interest of 400 registered participants, 350 of whom attended the colloquium directly “online”. A great success and a great start to the 2022 working year! In addition to Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne and the three co-editors in chief of the book, each of whom made a substantive contribution, Peter Callens, lawyer and chairman of the Flemish Bars Association (Dutch-speaking lawyers of Belgium), also discussed the cooperation between experts and lawyers in more detail in order to achieve a result-oriented approach.

“Statuut en deontologie van de gerechtsdeskundige” (only available in Dutch), eds. Johan Boon, Didier De Buyst, Toon Lysens, 372 p, Die Keure, 65 euros – www.diekeure.be/nl-be/professional/12069/statuut-en-deontologie-van-de-gerechtsdeskundige