Expert Witness Case Study

“Mark Chester gave evidence. He was a very impressive and authoritative witness.”

Mr J’s Defence Team

Mr J owns some land. Originally an industrial site, it has long-since been abandoned and is now covered by naturally colonising woodland. His neighbour owns part of the site. The local authority, seeking to protect the feature, made a ‘woodland’ Tree Preservation Order for the whole site. This protects the trees present at the time when the order was made, and those which have grown since. Mr J seeks to keep the site tidy, clearing fallen trees and branches.

Having a piece of machinery on trial, he was tidying fallen material, and offered to help his neighbour with some tree work. He didn’t contact the local authority, as he considered the work was exempt, the trees being dead, dying or dangerous. Unfortunately, he didn’t take any photographs. The local authority, finding fresh stumps and pruning cuts, decided that he had breached the Tree Preservation Order, and began proceedings towards a prosecution. The burden of proof lay with Mr. J to prove that the work was exempt. He needed some professional help.

During the first site visit following these developments, it was soon apparent that some of the trees were in decline. Cedarwood Tree Care surveyed all of the trees on the site over the following months, and monitored their condition. We also advised Mr J not to tidy fallen material. If his explanation was correct, we would expect to see a build-up of fallen material. Over the coming months, we observed that an increasing number of the surveyed trees had died.

The local authority presented their evidence. We weren’t convinced that their case was strong and found that the evidence on site was in line with Mr. J’s explanation. However, the case was pursued with some vigour and determination by the local authority. Cedarwood Tree Care was commissioned by the magistrates to provide a detailed expert report. This analysed the evidence presented by the local authority, and details of what we had observed on site over the subsequent months. The report ensured the magistrates would be informed in their decision-making. After a thorough three day hearing (including more than three hours in the witness box for our expert witness), the magistrates concluded that there was no case to answer, dismissing the charges against Mr J.