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Witness Statements: Some Dos and Don’ts!

by Ridley & Hall in David Wilson, Litigation posted June 11, 2024.
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In most cases which proceed to trial evidence from witnesses is vital to the success or otherwise of the claim.

Unlike on TV where witnesses give verbal evidence at Court, in most cases, witnesses give evidence in the form of their witness statement which they confirm is true in the witness box at Court.

Witness statements deal with questions of fact and should only contain what the witness has seen, heard or done.

The statement should not contain any opinion and not include the witness’s views on the merits of their own case or that of their opponent.

A well drafted witness statement should, as far as possible, deal with matters in chronological order and only contain facts which are relevant to the issues in any given case.

Whilst a lawyer can help you with the format of the statement it has to be in the witness’s own words and its contents are not to be influenced by the lawyer putting words into the witness’s mouth.

All witness statements prepared for Court Proceedings must contain a Statement of Truth and by signing that Statement of Truth the witness confirms not only that the statement is true but also that they appreciate that if not correct potentially they are liable for contempt of court.

The Judge hearing the case is aware of what should (and more importantly should not) be in any witness statement and will not be impressed by statements that contain for example opinion, comments on the opponent’s case and/or irrelevant facts.

If the Judge becomes irritated or frustrated by a witness statement, they are only human and may not (even if subconsciously) be paying proper attention to the relevant and important parts of any given witness statement.

To summarise, often less is more to be a good statement which concentrates on the issues where parties disagree and deals only with facts which are the witnesses’ personal knowledge (as stated earlier remember “seen/heard/done”) and are relevant to the claim.

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David Wilson – Solicitor



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