A witness statement is a document of evidence that can be used during a hearing. It contains all the evidence that the person writing it wants the court to know about a case. Examples of cases where a witness statement may be required are financial order and non-molestation order applications.
You will need the court’s permission before sending (or asking someone else to send) the court a witness statement. But if the letter from the court does not tell you to prepare a witness statement, you can still ask for permission.
Who can provide a witness statement?
As a party to the case, you (whether you are the applicant or the respondent) can prepare a witness statement, or someone else can, such as a family friend or another person.
If you plan to ask another person who is not a party to the case to provide a witness statement, first check whether they would be prepared to give evidence in court. The reason for this is that a judge may ask them to attend court to provide their evidence in person (or remotely).
What the court will tell you
Your written communication from the court will confirm:
- the hearing a witness statement will be required for
- who should provide the witness statement
- the deadline for sending in the witness statement
- any other stipulations, for example, how long the witness statement should be
What the witness statement must include
It must include:
- the names of the parties, the witness, the court
- the case number and relevant Act the application has been made under
- reasons why the person writing the witness statement wants the judge to make a certain type of order
- any other documents the person writing the witness statement would like the court to see (attached as numbered exhibits)
- the name of the person who has written the witness statement
- the date
Make sure the witness statement meets these standards
The witness statement must be factual, in other words, it must be based on what the person writing the witness statement has seen or heard or what he or she felt. It can not be hearsay (what someone else has told the person writing the witness statement).
The witness statement must be truthful and must include a statement of truth (confirmation by the person who has written the witness statement that it is true). A court can reject a witness statement if it does not have a statement of truth.
Check all of the facts and figures including dates and times and ensure that they match the information provided in the exhibits. Ensuring that the figures are correct will be particularly important for financial order applications. Once the witness statement is complete, do a final fact check and correct any spelling or grammatical errors.
Who else will see the witness statement?
When you (or someone else) prepares a witness statement, it will be shared with all the parties in the case.
These parties include the other person (the applicant or respondent), but could also include other organisations involved in the case, such as the Children and Family Court Advisory Service (CAFCASS) or the National Youth Advocacy Service (NYAS).
If there is any sensitive information that you do not want the other party to know, such as your new home address, let the court know this and make sure you remove that information from your witness statement.
The same applies if the witness statement is being written by another person who, for example, does not want to reveal their home address.
For help with witness statements, contact me.
Copyright © Going to Court Alone – Debbie Thomas
Image by Pixabay