New rules concerning witness statements – Business and property Courts

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From 6 April 2021 witness statements for use at trial (not otherwise) in the Business and Property Courts will have to comply with the newly published Practice Direction 57AC.

A trial witness statement must contain only evidence as to matters of fact that need to be proved at trial by evidence and that the witness would be asked to give, and the witness would be allowed to give.

It must: –

  • set out only matters of fact of which the witness has personal knowledge of which are relevant to the case.
  • the witness is required to set out in their statement what documents, if any, they have been referred to, but the statement should not refer to or explain a document in dispute.
  • not quote at length from any document to which reference is made.
  • provide a narrative of documents.
  • not contain comment on other evidence.
  • on “important disputed matters of fact” it should address (a) how well the witness recalls the matters addressed, and (b) whether, and if so how and when, the witness has refreshed their memory by reference to documents.

There is also a new statement of truth: –

I understand that the purpose of this witness statement is to set out matters of fact of which I have personal knowledge.

I understand that it is not my function to argue the case, either generally or on particular points, or to take the court through the documents in the case. This witness statement sets out only my personal knowledge and recollection, in my own words.

On points that I understand to be important in the case, I have stated honestly (a) how well I recall matters and (b) whether my memory has been refreshed by considering documents, if so how and when.

I have not been asked or encouraged by anyone to include in this statement anything that is not my own account, to the best of my ability and recollection, of events I witnessed or matters of which I have personal knowledge.”

In addition, the solicitor assisting with preparation off a statement must also sign a certificate of compliance.

In the event of non-compliance, the Court can (i) refuse permission to rely upon some or all of the evidence, (ii) order the witness statement to be re-drafted, (iii) make an adverse costs order, or (iv) order a witness to give some or all of their evidence-in-chief orally.

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The content of this update is for the purpose of providing general legal information. It does not constitute legal advice from a solicitor and should not be treated as such.