Introduction to Forrest
Forrest MLS provides expert medico-legal reports (MLRs) documenting the physical and psychological results of torture and other human rights abuses.
All our reports are wholly compliant with the Istanbul Protocol and other recognised international standards, along with the relevant court directions for expert witnesses.
Forrest MLS accepts referrals from legal practitioners in the form of detailed instructions to an expert witness.
We produce Medico-legal reports (MLRs) in timely fashion and offer training to increase the availability of expertise in this area. Although precise figures do not exist, we estimate that, where clinical evidence may be relevant to a claim for international protection, fewer than a quarter of all cases are currently offered a medical examination and the documentation of that evidence.
All our reports are internally reviewed and audited to ensure they are fully effective and comply with the duty to the court required of an expert witness. This quality control process means that all our clinicians work to the same high standards.
How We Work
It is important that the client has some understanding of what to expect during the examination. We have produced written explanations covering complete and psychological reports and ask referring legal representatives to download and explain or give copies to clients when obtaining their consents.
In order to reduce overheads and thereby keep fees to a reasonable and competitive level, Forrest MLS operates a ‘paperless’ process. All communication is by email; we require documents to be provided to us in electronic form. We do not have offices; staff and member clinicians work remotely and clinicians hire consulting rooms from time to time as required.
Once we have accepted a referral and carried out the examination, provided we have been supplied with all necessary instructions and papers in good time, we undertake to supply reports not later than five weeks after the examination. In particular circumstances we are able to undertake reports within a much shorter timeframe. Time estimates are always provided on a case by case basis; legal practitioners should bring any real urgency to our immediate notice.
We believe that production of a thorough and objective report requires that the clinician:
- Reads all relevant documentation (in asylum cases: any or all of screening, asylum interview, witness statement, refusal of claim, appeal determination, medical notes, rule 35 reports etc., depending upon the stage each case has reached). This can take 1-3 hours depending on the complexity of the case
- Examines the client with the assistance of an interpreter, if needed (1.5-4 hours)~
- Writes the report (4-6 hours or more, if complex)
- Reviews – subjects the report to internal review and clarify as indicated (2 hours or more)
And in some cases:
- Responds – notwithstanding the provision of a fully effective medico-legal report, Home Office caseworkers and the courts may raise issues which require medically reasoned responses
- Attends – on adequate notice, we are sometimes able to:
- attend court or
- visit Immigration Removal Centres, HM Prisons, and other custodial facilities.
Separately, and in no way at odds with our duties to the courts (in terms of expertise and objectivity), our clinicians have other, clinical duties (as defined by the General Medical Council) which may need to be addressed from time to time. For example, where we recognise a health risk to the examinee or the public. In these circumstances (although we are not the treating clinician), we will comply with our clinical duties to signpost NHS care. However, Forrest MLS report writers (in keeping with their role as expert rather than professional witnesses) cannot and do not: prescribe medication, provide treatment, or undertake specialist investigations.
Forrest clinicians have a wide range of expertise and interests and are distributed widely across the UK. Legal representatives intending to make a referral to us should will be sent an enquiry form. You may wish to discuss your requirements with our administrator, by email, or phone to optimise the fit between the client and the doctor. Sometimes a further discussion with the chosen expert can help to clarify what is needed and when.
We have found, over many years, that careful arrangements for examinations are essential to ensure that examinations can be conducted, and reports produced, with minimum stress for all parties. Our terms and conditions are written to ensure that:
- The clinician has been supplied with detailed instructions and all relevant documents in good time for them to be read and considered before the examination
- Careful attention is paid to the place of consultation, which is likely to change from one case to another
- Clients and interpreters arrive at the right place and on time. We try to call the client via the interpreter (if needed) to ensure good communication with the clinician on the morning of the consultation. This is invaluable in reassuring anxious clients and preventing wasted appointments.
Like all other organisations and individual clinicians working in the field, our capacity is limited. Where we cannot offer dates for submission of reports which meet the current requirements of the courts or Home Office caseworkers, we are able to provide “time to examine” letters. These are often helpful in support of requests for sufficient time to present relevant medical evidence.
Forrest MLS accepts publicly and privately funded work. We have a limited capacity to undertake work pro bono.
We are aware of the requirements of the Legal Aid Agency (LAA) regarding requests for funding for expert reports. Our cost estimates are based on hourly rates and times which comply with their standards.