Civil litigation: new rules for truth and witness statements

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Updates have been released to amend the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) and that means that, among other things, there are new requirements which you need to include if you’re preparing a witness statement or completing a statement of truth for use in civil litigation.

If you have ever needed to prepare a witness statement, you will (hopefully!) know that the CPR sets out what information needs to be included in a witness statement. The 113th update to the CPR has made some changes which are summarised below and which will come into force on 31 March and 6 April 2020.

New requirements

  1. Specific wording is now required at the end of all statements of truth (i.e. not just the statement of truth at the end of the witness statement) about the contempt of court consequences for making false statements:

“I understand that proceedings for contempt of court may be brought against anyone who makes, or causes to be made, a false statement in a document verified by a statement of truth.”

  1. The statement must be dated with the date that it was signed by the witness.
  2. The statement must contain information about the method it has been taken by (e.g. face-to-face; by telephone call, through an interpreter, etc).

Where the witness does not speak English:

  1. The statement must be drafted in the witness’s own language.
  2. The statement can’t be signed and verified by a third party on behalf of the witness simply because the witness can’t read or sign as a result of the language barrier.
  3. The information contained in the top-right hand corner must include the date of any translation.

Where a statement is in a foreign language, the party that wishes to rely upon the statement must arrange to have it translated and file the foreign language witness statement with the court. The translator must sign the original statement and certify that the translation is accurate.

Complying with Civil Procedure Rules

Practice Direction 32 is the starting point for all witness statement requirements but set out below are a few key things to remember to ensure CPR compliance.

  • Ensure that you have included all of the relevant information in the top right hand corner of the first page[1], including the identifying initials and numbers of the exhibits; the party on whose behalf the statement is being made; and the number of statements that witness has made in the proceedings.
  • The statement must include the witness’ full name, occupation, address (or if the statement is made in the witness’ professional capacity: their work address, employer/firm’s name, and the position within the company); and if the witness is a party to the proceedings[2].
  • The witness statement must include a statement of truth (this usually goes at the end) – “I believe that the facts stated in this witness statement are true”. As above, the amendments to the CPR mean that from 6 April, the statement of truth will also need to include confirmation about the contempt of court consequences.

Most people who frequently prepare witness statements for use in litigation will use a precedent document and simply amend the content of the statement to suit the circumstances. That is completely fine but any precedent documents should now be altered to incorporate the new changes, and due regard should always be paid to whether the statement is CPR compliant.

The Real Estate Dispute Resolution team are always keeping up-to date with the changes and amendments to the CPR so please do let us know if you need any help with your property disputes.

Need more information, help or advice? Please contact Rachel Templeman on 0191 211 7814 or email [email protected]

[1] Paragraph 17.2, Practice Direction 32, Civil Procedure Rules

[2] Paragraph 18.1, Practice Direction 32, Civil Procedure Rules