SIGNING A STATEMENT OF TRUTH ON BEHALF OF A CLIENT: GET THE WORDING RIGHT
On more than one occasion on this blog we have looked at cases where the courts have questioned the wisdom of a lawyer signing a statement of truth on behalf of a client. In Galdikas -v- DJ Houghton Catching Services Ltd  EWHC 1367 (QB) Mr Justice Supperstone considered an application to strike out a defence. when the defendant’s solicitor had used the incorrect wording when signing the statement of truth on behalf of a client. The defendant was given permission to amend, however it serves of a timely reminder that a lawyer signing a statement of truth should be fully aware of the obligations under Practice Direction 22.
The claimants each brought actions relating to allegations of trafficking and subsequent labour exploitation. The defendant filed a defence. However the defence was signed by the defendants’ solicitor stating his own belief that the contents of the defence were true.
THE PRACTICE DIRECTION
Anyone signing a statement of truth on behalf of client should read Practice Direction 22 periodically. In relation to the lawyer signing the statement of truth the rules are clear:
3.7 Where a party is legally represented, the legal representative may sign the statement of truth on his behalf. The statement signed by the legal representative will refer to the client’s belief, not his own. In signing he must state the capacity in which he signs and the name of his firm where appropriate.
3.8 Where a legal representative has signed a statement of truth, his signature will be taken by the court as his statement:
(1) that the client on whose behalf he has signed had authorised him to do so,
(2) that before signing he had explained to the client that in signing the statement of truth he would be confirming the client’s belief that the facts stated in the document were true, and
(3) that before signing he had informed the client of the possible consequences to the client if it should subsequently appear that the client did not have an honest belief in the truth of those facts (see rule 32.14).
THE JUDGMENT IN GALDIKAS
(4) The Defence has not been verified by a proper statement of truth
The Claimants contend that the Defence should be struck out on the basis that Mr Bleasdale of Clyde & Co, the Houghton Defendants’ solicitors, signed the statement of truth by reference to his own belief, not that of the Houghton Defendants, contrary to 22 PD 3.7. Further, and what Mr Hendy describes as “the principal deficiency here” (Claimants’ skeleton argument, para 153) is that paragraph 14 of the Defence is false, as the Second and Third Defendants must have appreciated when they authorised Mr Bleasdale to sign the statement of truth. The Second Defendant had deducted money from the wages of workers to pay Mr Mankevicius for finding them employment with the Houghton Defendants. There is no application to amend the Defence so the false statement is still advanced before the court.
Mr Kennedy submits that the error made by Mr Bleasdale is an error of form rather than substance (Bank of Ireland v Philip Pank  EWHC 284 (TCC)). Clyde & Co subsequently confirmed by letter of 4 December 2015 that the content of the Defence has been agreed and verified with the Defendants. The Houghton Defendants’ instructing solicitors had instructions to sign on their behalf. Mr Kennedy states that, subject to the court’s permission, an amendment will be made to the pleading to reflect that.
I consider that the Houghton Defendants should be allowed to make the amendment requested rather than the Defence being struck out. The fact that paragraph 14 of the Defence contains a false statement does not, in my view, affect the decision whether or not to strike out the Defence because Mr Bleasdale signed the statement of truth by reference to his own belief, not that of the Houghton Defendants.
RELATED POSTS ON SIGNING THE STATEMENT OF TRUTH
- Statements of case & the statement of truth: can a party argue two different things?
- Think very carefully before signing a statement of truth on behalf of your client.
- The profound lack of wisdom in signing statements of truth on behalf of your client.
- “Taking the statement of truth lightly”
- Signing disclosure statements? Remember you can go to prison.
- Pleadings, the statement of truth and contempt of court: useful guidance from RPC solicitors.
- Witness statements and avoiding jail: are you protecting your clients and protecting yourself?
- Issuing without authority: the dangers of solicitors signing statements of truth
- The importance of the statement of truth: the signatory cannot hide behind the draftsman
- Schedules of damages, wasted costs and the statement of truth.