HOW CAN YOUR BARRISTER HELP YOU AS A LITIGANT IN PERSON
INFORMATION ON WRITING A WITNESS STATEMENT
RESPONSIBILITY OF A LITIGANT IN PERSON
Important Note: Please note that this information is not intended to be legal advice. You are advised to seek legal advice.
This information provides guidance to litigants in person on writing a witness statement.
Your barrister can advise you on the structure and preparation of your witness statement to ensure that the important evidence and strongest evidence is put forward to the court.
Your barrister can advise you on the relevant issues, help you to identify the relevant evidence and ensure you use the opportunity to respond fully to the other side and other reports, in a manner which supports your case and undermines other evidence to ensure the court’s most favourable outcome.
A witness statement usually starts with a direction by the court. The court order will direct that the parties provide a witness statement. It is normal practice for the court to direct the parties to provide a witness statement for a final hearing or a fact-finding hearing in private children matters.
In Family court, the witness statement is the single most important document, as it is your evidence which you want the court to consider when determining your case. In short, this is your voice in court; it stands as your evidence before you give your oral (spoken) evidence in court. Your barrister can advise and guide you on getting the best of your evidence before the court. It is your opportunity to put all of the evidence, which you want the court to take into account when deciding the case.
Your barrister can advise and guide you on identifying and responding to the important and key evidence, to ensure that your witness statement fully covers all of the key evidence and law.
As your witness statement is the single most important document because it is your opportunity to put your case clearly and concisely to the court and when done correctly, it should identify all of the issues in the case, your evidence, your response to the other party’s evidence and all other evidence, which goes to the strengths of your case for the most favourable outcome.
Formality Of A Witness Statement
A witness statement is a written document setting out the evidence of the person writing the witness statement. The evidence presented in the witness statement should include everything that a party intends to rely on in court.
A witness statement differs from a position statement insofar that a position statement does not give your evidence and is much more concise.
Your barrister can advise and guide you on the structure of your witness statement. All witness statements ought to be in a formal structure, which identifies each paragraph, identifies important evidence and identifies your responses to all of the evidence, ultimately ensuring that your best case is placed before the court to ensure you get the most favourable outcome.
Statement of Truth
Your barrister can advise you of the importance of a statement of truth. In short, all witness statements must be your evidence and that evidence must be truthfully represented to the court.
A statement of truth is a legal declaration that the contents of your statement are true, which means that you have not misled or misrepresented facts in your witness statement. The statement of truth is the final paragraph in your witness statement and thereafter it must be signed by you and dated.
It is contempt of court if you are found to be intentionally untruthful; in some rare cases, a party may face costs in the case if the conduct sufficiently warrants it.
File and Serve a Witness Statement
It is generally the case that a witness statement cannot be considered unless the court has directed the parties to file and serve a witness statement in the order of the court or prior permission is granted by the Judge.
The wording ‘File and Serve’ is a legal terminology, which simply means, that when you send a document to a court its is deemed ‘filed’ and the same document will always need to be sent to the other parties and almost in every case this includes providing a copy to Cafcass, Children Service and Guardian referred to by the court as‘all other parties’ by the court.
There are certain circumstances, for example where a person makes an urgent application, where there may not be time to seek the permission of the Judge and therefore it is recommended to submit a witness statement in conjunction with the urgent application.Your barrister can advise you in this situation.
The Judge will make directions to file and serve the witness statement prior to a certain date in advance of the upcoming court hearing. You may not be able to rely on evidence in the witness statement if the deadline is missed and therefore your barrister can advise you on how to deal with that situation and the best approach for you take, having regards to the particular circumstances of a case.
Giving your oral evidence in court
Your barrister can provide you with advice and guidance on how best to present your witness evidence and any other witness evidence you want to call to support your case. You may also want your barrister’s advice on assessing the quality of the evidence and other evidence; which evidence may be helpful in supporting your case and challenge other unhelpful evidence.
Your barrister can advise and guide on you providing giving your oral (spoken) evidence in court as all makers of a witness statement/expert report can be called to give their evidence in court.
Chambers of Helen Alexander-Direct Public Access-Family Court Barrister