Expert Witness


Resulting from the practice’s specialisation in Residential and Healthcare, five of our Architects (David Cowan, Marisa Shek, Simon Duffy, Gavin Hill and Julia Hockin) act as Expert Witnesses in the High Court on disability matters. This entails visiting claimants in their homes, assessing their current and future housing needs together with the adaptations needed to make their current or future home fully accessible.

Research into alternative accommodation is also frequently necessary and we work closely with the claimant, their carers and occupational therapists to ensure that the appropriate environment is provided.

Although our cases are mainly in the United Kingdom, this specialism has taken us as far afield as France, Spain, Italy and the United States.

Cowan Architects have also worked with claimants after the settlement of their case, using the expertise within the practice to design accommodation to meet their specific needs.

With our experience in designing for disabled people we have completed numerous private home conversions, as well as new-build properties for people with learning and physical difficulties.


David Cowan

David Cowan


Chairman | Architect | Expert Witness

– B.Sc.(Hons) Architectural Studies
– B.Architecture (Hons)
– Chartered Member of the RIBA
– Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts

David qualified as an Architect in 1976 before gaining experience in the Civil Service sector and private practice in both the UK and Africa. He founded Cowan Architects Limited (formerly David Cowan Associates) in 1983.

He is recognised as one of the UK’s leading Expert Witnesses in disability housing and has given papers on disability matters at a number of conferences and seminars, to both healthcare professionals, solicitors and fellow building professionals. He has also lectured at The School of Geriatric Medicine at Birmingham University.

David is a member of the Centre for Accessible Environments and the Society of Expert Witnesses and is listed in the Law Society’s Register of Expert Witnesses.


David Cowan has been involved with those with special needs since 1983. Initially involved with designing for the elderly, he was also involved in the inception of the Department of Gerontology at Birmingham University set up by Professor Isaacs, who held the Chair of Geriatric Medicine. He has lectured at the University on designing for the elderly.

David heads up a practice of architects specialising in healthcare design based in East Grinstead and he has worked for the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability in Putney where he has been involved in nearly 20 years both in the creation of new specialised units for such complex illnesses as Huntington’s as well as the refurbishment of the existing 19th-century Nightingale wards to provide 20th century solutions including individual bedrooms.

His experience spans the range of healthcare buildings from doctors’ surgeries, through group care homes and individual’s homes to major hospitals.

He has worked with a number of Housing Associations bringing his community health skills to provide mixed housing that meets a cross section of need.

David Cowan has been involved in preparing reports for special needs housing for personal injury cases both for those on Legal Aid and for privately funded cases. He has also acted on behalf of a number of Health Authorities, Road Traffic Accident cases for Insurance Companies and the Motor Insurers Bureau; and for the Medical Protection Society since 1989. He also works extensively for a number of Claimants’ solicitors.

David Cowan has undertaken work throughout the United Kingdom and Eire. He has also worked on cases within the jurisdiction of the British Courts for clients living in France, Spain, Italy, the United States and New Zealand.

He was a member of a working party assessing alternatives to the Roberts & Johnstone judgement as a formula for house purchase in short life expectancy cases. This committee prepared a detailed report on alternatives for short life expectancy costs which was incorporated in submissions to the Civil Justice Committee.

The practice has designed medical facilities ranging from doctors surgeries to nursing home complexes for private companies and charities. He is a member of the Centre for Accessible Environments and is listed in the Law Society Directory of Expert Witnesses and the UK Register of Expert Witnesses, and also holds the Cardiff University Certificate of Accreditation for Expert Witnesses.

David Cowan has published a number of articles on design for the elderly and disabled and an article on the alternatives to Roberts & Johnstone that is used by a number of Solicitors as a reference document.

Marisa Shek

Marisa Shek


Director | Architect | Expert Witness

– BA(Hons) Architecture
– PG Dip Architecture
– Chartered Member of the RIBA
– Member of the Expert Witness Institute
– Member of Executive Committee of Architects for Health

Since becoming a chartered Architect in 2001, Marisa has dedicated her career in the healthcare sector where she has delivered a wide range of projects spanning small scale refurbishments to PFI super-hospitals. Throughout this period, Marisa has developed particular interest and expertise in provisions for paediatric, obstetric and orthopaedic as well as mental health care.

As a Director, Marisa is integral to the Senior Management Team where she play an active role in business development, building the practice profile as well as day-to-day coordination of work flow across the practice. Marisa supports the multidisciplinary approach at Cowan Architects whilst understanding the value of mentorship and dissemination of expertise across the technical teams.

Marisa’s personal aspiration is to engage the next generation of architects by demonstrating that inclusiveness and accessibility is a challenging yet rewarding approach that is not exclusive of design agendas. In pursuit of this, Marisa is on the Executive Board of Architects for Health which is a UK organisation championing excellence in healthcare design by engaging the profession in an active programme of events.


Following 17 years of practical experience as a healthcare architect, Marisa has developed expertise in the accommodation needs of cognitive, physically and visually impaired people, with a particular interest in orthopaedic, spinal and paediatric provisions.

Marisa understands the importance of balancing the varying needs of the client-user with that of the care-giver, to facilitate effective and efficient delivery of care in a sympathetic environment. The exposure to the complexity and diversity of healthcare facilities forms the foundation of her expertise as a healthcare architect which is fundamental in supporting her role as an expert witness in the field of accommodation for disabled people.

Alongside her day to day role as an architect, Marisa accepts expert witness instructions to advise on the accommodation needs in medical negligence and personal injury litigation. She has undertaken cases involving stroke victims, spinal injuries such as Cauda Equina, limb amputations following orthopaedic complications, loss of sight and also complex claims for infants with cerebral palsy.

Marisa holds the Cardiff University Certificate of Accreditation for Expert Witnesses. She has written 200+ reports to date and her bias is fluctuating around 48% on Claimant, 50% on Defendant with the remaining 2% on Joint instructions. If you are interested to see her Terms and Conditions, a sample report or perhaps would like to add her to your experts database, please get in touch.

Simon Duffy

Simon Duffy


Director | Architect | Expert Witness

– BA (Hons) Architecture
– PG Dip Architecture
– Chartered Member of the RIBA

Simon Duffy has over 15 years’ experience in the Health sector. He has come from a commercial practice where he has led the design on GP Surgeries, Primary Health Care Centres, residential homes, specialist accommodation for people with autism and Neighbourhood Resource Centres for adults with learning difficulties.

Recently, Simon has also been involved with the new GP Commissioning Board in Bracknell. He was instrumental in successfully pioneering the design of one of the first buildings being commissioned through the PCT structure prior to the abolition of PCTs in April 2013.

His work across a wide spectrum of physical and learning difficulties give him a good insight into claimants’ needs.


Simon has worked on cases in England, Scotland, Wales, Jersey and the Isles of Silly on a diverse range of disabilities including but not exclusively: amputations, wrongful births, hypoxic brain injuries, cerebral palsy, cauda equina, hemiplegia, tetraplegia, quadriplegia, paraplegia, myopia and blindness, arthrogryposis, neurological problems, brain tumors, inoperable hernias, bowel problems and very sad cases of persistent vegetative state.

Simon has a specialism in Military cases and has provided accommodation reports on the most difficult of cases.

Simon has attended Court on a number of cases and have given evidence.

Simon also provides reports on cases of Architectural negligence and has been involved in a number of high profile negligence cases.

Simon also provides pre-action reports with a view to them being structured to the mandatory Civil Procedure Rules (SPR) at a later date if legal action is to be taken.

Simon has published a number of articles in the Expert Witness Journal.

Gavin Hill

Gavin Hill

Architect | Expert Witness

Architect | Expert Witness

– BA (Hons) Architecture
– Graduate Diploma in Architecture
– Post Graduate Diploma in Architectural Practice
– Chartered Member of the RIBA
– Member of The Access Association

Gavin is a fully registered practising Architect having qualified in 1998. He has subsequently gained extensive experience in the design of accessible buildings throughout the United Kingdom, South-East Asia, Middle-East and Australia.

This has included the provision of accessible domestic accommodation for those with a wide range of disabilities, in addition to the delivery of Primary and Acute healthcare facilities for inpatient and surgical care, respite and palliative care, rehabilitation and physiotherapy, mental health and oncology treatment.

His role has included the undertaking of research and advising on all aspects of accessible design, healthcare design and best clinical practice, leading clinical planning teams and consulting with senior hospital management and government departments.

This has allowed him to become proficient in the provision of environments that are compliant with Building Regulations and the Disability Discrimination Act and to gain a thorough knowledge of healthcare design guidance including documentation published by the Department of Health along with international government publications of equivalent standards.


Gavin’s experience has allowed him to gain particular expertise in the provision of specialist domestic accommodation for those with cognitive, physical, and visual impairment.

He has gained considerable experience through research and in particular by managing the design and delivery of facilities for rehabilitation and respite care, in addition to psychiatric care in which he has a comprehensive understanding of the requirements for child, adolescent and older person mental health needs.

In addition to his role of healthcare architect, Gavin is involved in the preparation of accommodation needs reports for cases of medical negligence and personal injury with a similar weight of Claimant and Defendant instructions.

He assesses the housing requirements of Claimants, specialising in the needs of those with cerebral palsy, spinal injury, acquired brain injury, multiple complex disabilities, cauda equina syndrome, amputations, visual and cognitive impairment.

Gavin has carried out numerous property search and suitability reports for Claimants, with subsequently involvement in the required adaptation work.

As a chartered member of the Royal Institute of British Architects, Gavin practices in accordance with the Code of Professional Conduct and maintains his requirement for continuing professional development through attendance at seminars and conferences worldwide with a particular focus on accessible environments and healthcare design.

He is a member of The Access Association and holds the Cardiff University Certificate of Accreditation for Expert Witnesses.

Julia Hockin

Julia Hockin

Architect | Expert Witness

Architect | Expert Witness

– BA. Architecture
– Diploma in Architecture
– Chartered Member of the RIBA

Since qualifying as an architect in 1988, Julia has gained considerable experience in the design of accessible buildings.

With the Centre for Accessible Environments, she took part in the consultation process prior to the implementation of Building Regulations Part M, and the Disability Discrimination Act. She also worked alongside The Joseph Rowntree Foundation during the development of the concept of Lifetime Homes.

The experience and research has throughout her career, provided her with an in-depth understanding of the accommodation requirements of those with a wide range of disabilities including reduced mobility, cognitive and sight impairment.

In addition to accessible design, Julia has over 10 years’ experience in the design of Primary Healthcare Buildings, ranging from small GP Surgeries to very large Poly-Clinics with their own diagnostic, minor operations, paediatric, physiotherapy and minor injuries facilities.

Expert Witness Profile

Julia has been involved with accessible design throughout her career since qualifying in 1998, and has broadened her skill through research, even gaining hands-on experience in providing personal care, in a respite care environment.

She has carried out access audits for large organisations, and has been involved in the design of specialist accommodation for both The Children’s Trust, and Combat Stress.

She is experienced in the housing needs of those with cognitive, physical, and visual impairments, and specialises in cases involving those with multiple complex disabilities, cerebral palsy, acquired brain injury, and cognitive impairment.

Since joining Cowan Architects in 2015, Julia has been involved in the preparation of reports for special needs housing for personal injury and medical negligence case with an equal number of cases for both Claimants and Defendants.

She is a member of The Access Association and holds the Cardiff University Certificate of Accreditation for Expert Witnesses.




As Expert Witnesses we prepare reports in respect of the accommodation needs of people who have suffered injury or trauma and who are seeking compensation through the Courts.


As Architects and Building Surveyors, we are best placed to act as an independent Expert to assess and advise on disputes involving building defects.


We believe that understanding the individual’s disability requirements from an accommodation perspective is key to providing a home tailored to the Client’s specific needs.