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Why am I asked to sign a Witness Statement?

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At Lance Mason, we get asked time and time again why we need witness statements. I recently discussed the importance of medical evidence in personal injury cases, but today, it’s time to have a look at why lawyers may ask for a witness statement.

What is a witness statement?

A witness statement is a formal document containing your own account of the facts relating to the issue(s) arising in the dispute. Comments made in the statement should be limited to fact and comments based on opinions should be kept to a minimum.

The purpose of the witness statement is to provide written evidence to support your case that will, if permitted by the court, be used as evidence.

A witness statement is a crucial part of a party’s case. It is designed to show your case in its strongest light. It is important therefore to ensure the statement is as comprehensive as possible.

How will it be prepared?

Typically, we will meet or discuss over the telephone the issues on which you can give evidence. This is called taking a proof of evidence. It is likely to involve you reviewing documents (either at the meeting itself or before) that relate to the dispute and/or particular issues. The court may have given directions limiting who can give evidence and about which issues.

The statement must be in your words. Therefore, it is important that you understand what is included in your statement and that it reflects accurately your account of the facts.

Depending upon the complexity of the dispute, the proofing exercise could be relatively short. In some instances it could be very long exercise taking place over several days.

After the statement has been taken, a draft of the statement will be produced for you to review and amend where necessary. It is often the case that there will be several drafts of the statement. Once you are satisfied with the statement, you will be asked to sign and date it. The statement becomes your ‘proof of evidence’. It will normally be edited further for the purposes of producing a witness statement in court proceedings. In this case, you will be asked to sign a ‘statement of truth’ contained in the witness statement – see below.

Who will get to see the witness statement?

After the witness statement has been signed, a copy of it will normally be disclosed, along with all other witness statements, to the other party who at the same time, will disclose the witness statements in support of its case.

The witness statement will most likely be prepared long before Court Proceedings are commenced but will be updated prior to the exchange of the statements.

After exchange of witness statements, you will have the opportunity of reviewing the other party’s witness statements which deal with those issues addressed in your evidence. Sometimes, it may be necessary to prepare a supplemental witness statement, for example, where there are factual inaccuracies in the evidence contained in the other party’s statements.

Statement of Truth

This is a statement at the end of a witness statement, which states that the party believes the facts stated in the witness statement to be true and accurate.

Proceedings for contempt of court may be brought against a person if he or she makes, or causes to be made, a false statement in a witness statement verified by a statement of truth, where there is no honest belief in its truth.

 

By: Lesley Layton