WITNESS STATEMENTS

As part of any case, be it bringing proceedings or defending a claim there is a very important stage involving the preparation and exchange of witness statements.  The court will give a timetable telling the parties when they are required to serve their witness evidence on their opponent and file their statements at court.

Usually the parties will have a telephone conversation and agree to mutually put the witness statement for their side in the post so that there is a reciprocal exchange and compliance with the court order.

Recently there have been some court decisions commenting that the witness statement does not appear to be in the language of the witness.  There were too many “hereinafters” and other legalease.  It is our role as your lawyers to draft the witness statements for you but it has to be your evidence and it is your story in your words.  We should take a proof of evidence from you at the outset, and then work from there.  It is our job to make it clear to you that your witness statement must cover off everything you can say in support of your case, or defending a case.

As under CPR 32.5(2) provides that a witness statement stands as the evidence in chief unless the court orders otherwise.  CPR 32.5(3) enables a witness with the permission of the court to

“amplify” their witness statement.  It must be stressed that the court will only allow this if the court considers there is good reasons not to confine the witness to their witness statement.  A witness giving oral evidence can amplify their witness statement and give evidence on new matters which have arisen since the witness statement was served on the other party.  Therefore if something relevant to determine the issues between the parties has occurred after we have served your statement you must let us know. The court`s permission will be required to hear this additional evidence.

 

A witness statement generally must

  • set out your version of events. It must be relevant to the issues and deal with the personal evidence that you can give
  • it must be true and accurate and you must sign a statement of truth at the end of the said statement
  • you should check and read the statement carefully before signing as this stands as your evidence in chief – ie all your evidence in support of your case
  • you should feel comfortable about how the statement is phrased and that the statement is limited to matters within your knowledge – if it is supported by a document then this should be referred to
  • prior to any trial or hearing when your statement will be considered you should refresh your memory as it what it says as time will have elapsed since the exchange of the witness evidence

It is to be recommended that you see the evidence from the other side once the witness statements have been exchanged and provide comments to the points stated as this will help our side and ensures that we are fully prepared.