This article originally appeared in Issue 4 (March 2020).
Amendments to the Practice Directions coming into force on 6 April 2020 will introduce some important changes to witness statements and statements of truth that readers should be aware of in advance. The updates can be found in full on the justice.gov website here.
Statements of Truth – The Contempt Warning
Perhaps the most important update is to PD 22 – Statements of Truth. From 6 April 2020, all statements of case, responses, application notices and notices of objections must be verified by the following statement of truth (additions in bold):
“[I believe][the (claimant or as may be) believes] that the facts stated in this [name document being verified] are true. 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 without an honest belief in its truth.’ (§2.1)
Statements of truth verifying witness statements are amended in the same manner and will henceforth read:
‘I believe that the facts stated in this witness statement are true. 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 without an honest belief in its truth.’ (§2.2)
The update also provides that the statement of truth verifying a witness statement must be in the same language as the witness statement (§2.2). Where a legal representative has signed a statement of truth on their client’s behalf, they will be taken to have explained its effects through an interpreter where necessary (§3.8).
Statements of Truth – New Requirements
Two entirely new provisions will be added to PD22 providing as follows:
‘2.4 The statement of truth must be in the witness’s own language.
2.5 A statement of truth must be dated with the date on which it was signed.’
Further amendments clarify that the provisions at PD 22 §3A pertaining to those unable to read or sign verified documents do not apply to individuals unable to read the document ‘by reason of language’, who are catered for by the new language requirements set out in the update.
Witness statements – Language and Production Process
Along with incorporating the amendments above, the update to PD 32 – Evidence provides for further information to be contained within witness statements, as follows:
- The heading to the witness statement must contain the date of any translation (§17.2(6));
- The body of the witness statement must not only, if practicable, be drafted in the individual’s own words, but “must in any event be drafted in their own language” (§18.1 and §19.1(8)); and
- The body must also state ‘the process by which it has been prepared, for example, face-to-face, over the telephone, and/or through an interpreter’ (§18.1(5))
Finally, PD 23.2 is amended to reflect the now default position of witness statements being filed in the writer’s own language:
“23.2 Where a witness statement is in a foreign language—
(a) the party wishing to rely on it must—
(i) have it translated; and
(ii) file the foreign language witness statement with the court; and
(b) the translator must sign the original statement and must certify that the translation is accurate.”