A witness statement is a written statement of an individual’s evidence, in their own words. They are intended to set out the facts that the individual is able to refer to. The parties generally exchange witness statements prior to the trial but they can also be used for other purposes such as to accompany set aside applications or to oppose a claimant’s application.
CPR 32.4 refers to the requirement to exchange witness statements prior to the trial.
Requirement to serve witness statements for use at trial
(1) A witness statement is a written statement signed by a person which contains the evidence which that person would be allowed to give orally.
(2) The court will order a party to serve on the other parties any witness statement of the oral evidence which the party serving the statement intends to rely on in relation to any issues of fact to be decided at the trial.
(3) The court may give directions as to –
(a) the order in which witness statements are to be served; and
(b) whether or not the witness statements are to be filed.
The top right hand corner of the witness statement should state the following:
Whether the statement is filed on behalf of the claimant or defendant (if you are defending a claim, defendant);
Your initials and surname (i.e. AN Other);
Whether that is your first or second statement;
The sequence of exhibits (i.e. EXH1-EXH08); and
The date the statement was drafted (i.e. 26/11/2012).
Requirements of a witness statement
It should start with a formal heading giving details of the proceedings;
The opening paragraph should provide information about yourself and your role in the proceedings (i.e. claimant, defendant, etc.);
The body of the statement should be in your own words and expressed in the first person;
It’s a good idea to set out paragraphs in chronological order as per the sequence of events referred to;
Each paragraph should deal with a single item or communication;
The paragraphs should indicate whether the statement is based on your own knowledge or any other source;
Any documents referred to should be marked as exhibits;
All numbers should be expressed in figures rather than words;
The statement should end with a signed statement of truth.
A false statement may constitute contempt of court which is a criminal offence.
If a witness statement is not served in accordance with the court’s directions, the witness can only give evidence with the court’s permission.
If you need to give additional evidence once your witness statement has been served, you can prepare a supplemental witness statement.
An example defendant’s witness statement is embedded below. This should give you an idea of the form and content of the statement and can be used as a starting point, however, you will need to include your own evidence.
Example documents are provided for reference only. It is your responsibility to make sure you have included all the relevant information and you should double-check your facts, dates, numbers, etc. before sending them out. If in doubt, seek professional help.
Any documents referred to in your witness statement should be attached as numbered exhibits and mentioned by reference in the relevant paragraph. For example, if you sent a CCA request to the claimant, you’d say: “On xx/xxxx/20xx I sent a request pursuant to s.78 of the Consumer Credit Act to xxxxxx. [EXHIBIT A]”