Posted on 16th July 2021 by Chris Makin

Post-Nominals – do they matter?

This is a moral tale about your choice of expert.

A little while ago, I wrote about Andrew Ager, an “expert” appointed by the CPS to give evidence at the trial of some men accused of the sale of voluntary carbon credits (me neither!).  His incompetence, lack of experience and malpractice were quite breathtaking, causing the criminal trial to collapse and the CPS having to revisit several previous trials at which his unsafe expert evidence had helped to achieve convictions.

Ager’s failings tell a story which is difficult to believe.  Just look at this list:

  1. He had attempted to dissuade the defence expert, Dr Marius Cristion Frunza (who holds a PhD from the Sorbonne) from giving evidence.
  2. He had no academic qualifications. When asked about A-levels, he replied that he thought he had sat three subjects, but he couldn’t remember whether he had passed any.
  3. He said he kept abreast of the carbon credits market, but had not read any of the books written by Dr Frunza although they were widely available. He had though once watched a documentary on carbon credits!
  4. He admitted that several assertions he had made to Dr Frunza during a meeting of experts were untrue.
  5. He asserted – despite it being his clear duty under CPR – that it was not part of his duty to bring facts helpful to the defence to the attention of the court.
  6. He had no record of any of the material supplied to him by the police, or of any of his workings.
  7. He did admit that he had been supplied with some sensitive material by the police, but it had been damaged by a leak. But not to worry; he asserted that matters were now in order, since he now kept sensitive material in a locked box on his balcony.

More recently, we hear of the failings of Carl Stokes who gave evidence at the Grenfell enquiry.  This is another story that is difficult to believe, but please read on.

Carl Stokes is a former firefighter who became a fire safety consultant on retirement and bid to assess fire safety at Grenfell Tower for the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Association (KCTMO).  He carried out six fire safety inspections between 2009 and 2016; that is, from long before the fire on 14 June 2017 and installation of the disastrous cladding which Sir Martin Moore Bick, the enquiry chairman, found did not comply with building regulations.

Stokes’s evidence to the enquiry was that he got the job with KCTMO because he appended to his name six post-nominals to which he was not entitled or which did not exist.  The report I have seen refers to some of them, from which one may deduce that his business card must have read something like this:

Carl Stokes fire eng (FPA), IFE assessor/auditor (FSO), NEBOSH, FIA BS5839 system designer, competent engineer BS 5266 (plus one more, unknown)

That’s ugly enough, but some of these simply referenced numbers for courses he had attended, and he was not an IFE (member of the Institution of Fire Engineers).  When challenged on that, he replied that anyone could check that he did not have that qualification if they had looked at the list of members at IFA!

This was clearly a person whose competence should have been questioned.  And in further evidence it was revealed that he did not carry out proper inspections; in fact, he cut and pasted extracts from other reports into his Grenfell reports, with the result, for example, that he commented on the Grenfell balconies.  Grenfell did not have balconies.

The moral is that someone at KCTMO should have checked this man’s qualifications when he was selected.  And preaching the obvious, this should also be done by you as instructing solicitors when choosing your experts.

Your intended expert’s post-nominals should stand scrutiny.  As an example, here are mine with their provenance:

  • FCA = Fellow, Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales
  • FCMI = Fellow, Chartered Management Institute
  • FAE = Fellow, The Academy of Experts (one of only about 60 worldwide)
  • QDR = Qualified in Dispute Resolution.  (In fact, I have this twice: as an accredited mediator at The Academy of Experts and as an accredited expert determiner there, in the first batch of five ever to be awarded this.  I could put QDR QDR after my name, or perhaps QDR2, but that would be pretentious!)
  • MCIArb = Member, Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (as an accredited mediator)

And even before checking my extensive experience as a forensic accountant, expert witness, civil & commercial mediator and expert determiner, you could gain assurance that I am who I say I am, by checking the members’ lists on all those professional bodies.

You, dear litigation lawyer, will have spent a great deal of time and effort on your cases.  When you reach the point of instructing experts, don’t be fooled by a long string of invented qualifications.  Relying on the likes of Andrew Ager or Carl Stokes as your expert may be unwise.

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