Judge Jacob slammed for expert witness flak

One of the UK's most senior judges has been rebuked for wrongly condemning an expert witness

Mr Justice Jacob had asked the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) to consider disciplining Michael Wilkey, an expert witness who had appeared before him in Gareth Pearce v Ove Arup Partnership & Ors.

At a hearing last week, RIBA's disciplinary tribunal found Judge Jacob's criticisms had been based on a series of factual inaccuracies and incorrect conclusions.

Ironically, Judge Jacob's characterisation of the evidence as being “biased and irrational” and full of blunders became a cause célèbre for lawyers and judges seeking to improve standards in the expert witness profession.

A spokesman for Wilkey said the effect of Jacob's decision had cost him £100,000 in legal fees from his own pocket and loss of earnings. He also had to deal with parties involved in other cases he had acted in challenging his findings as a result of the widely publicised judgment.

Wilkey was the expert witness for architect Gareth Pearce, who claimed that leading architect Rem Koolhaas had plagiarised his designs for use in the Kunsthal Exhibition Centre in Rotterdam.

Judge Jacob stated that Wilkey had accused Koolhaas of lying, while RIBA's tribunal found that he had never made such an accusation.

The judge also stated that Wilkey did not read the design brief for the Kunsthal. The tribunal found that these documents were in fact never exhibited.

Judge Jacob criticised Wilkey for not having visited the Kunsthal. However, the tribunal found this was unnecessary, as the Legal Services Commission had preferred him not to do so.

The tribunal concluded that Judge Jacob's conclusion that no copying had taken place was also wrong.