New rules regarding statements of truth and evidence in civil proceedings
The 113th Update to the Civil Procedure Rules implemented a number of amendments to various CPR Practice Directions. These amendments came into force on 6 April 2020 and bring about important changes that all parties to litigation need to be aware of. In this Perspective, we focus on the changes to statements of truth and witness evidence.
Statements of truth
The amendments to paragraph 2 of Practice Direction 22 relate to statements of truth. The form of the statement of truth verifying a statement of case, a response, an application notice or a notice of objections should now be as follows, with the newly required words in italics:
“[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.”
Similarly, the form of the statement of truth verifying a witness statement should now be as follows (and provided in the language of the witness statement):
“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.”
A person providing a false statement of truth has always been at risk of being held liable for contempt of court. However, the changes to the CPR mean that this is now explicit, and it will no longer be possible for anyone signing a statement of truth to claim that they were unaware of the consequences.
- A statement of truth must be in the witness’ own language (new paragraph 2.4).
- A statement of truth must be dated with the date on which it was signed (new paragraph 2.5).
Witness statements by non-English speakers
The amendments to statements of truth should be read alongside the changes to Practice Direction 32, which has clarified the rules on witness statements by non-English speakers. These amendments to the CPR remove uncertainty as to the requirements for CPR compliant witness statements by non-English speakers. Previously, there was limited guidance on such witness statements in Practice Direction 22 and 32.
In terms of witness statements generally:
- the statement must be taken in the witness’s own language (32PD18.1(a) and 32PD19.1(8))
- the statement must state how it was taken, for example face-to-face, over the telephone and/or through an interpreter (32PD18.1(5)).
Stating the process by which a witness statement has been taken is of particular importance in light of the COVID-19 crisis, because lockdown and social distancing measures will mean that many witnesses will have to be proofed remotely.
Where a witness statement is in a foreign language:
- the statement must be translated (32PD23.2(a)(i)) and contain the date of the translation (32PD17.2(6))
- the original foreign language witness statement must be filed with the court (32PD23.2(a)(ii))
- the translator must sign the original statement and certify that the translation is accurate (32PD23.2(b)).
An additional certificate needs to be produced for the court by an authorised person, where a document containing a statement of truth is to be signed by a person who is illiterate (22PD.3A). It is now clear that 22PD.3A does not apply to those who have language difficulties. The title of the rule has been updated to exclude those who cannot read by virtue of language alone.
With thanks to intern Phoebe Toyne-Bridges for her assistance with this blog.