WHO SIGNED THE STATEMENT OF TRUTH? THIS COULD BE A VERY IMPORTANT QUESTION: TICKING A BOX IS NOT SUFFICIENT
I am looking again at the judgment in Kassam -v- Gill (13th August 2018, County Court at Birmingham available on Lawtel). Here we look at the crucial question of who signed the statement of truth. A difficult concept when a claim form is signed electronically. The judge held that the statement of truth had not been completed properly. In some cases this could mean that the proceedings are not validly issued and liable to be struck out.
The claimant landlord bought possession proceedings against the defendant tenants. He consulted an organisation “Remove a Tenant” to act on his behalf. This firm did not hold itself out to be solicitors. However the judge found that the organisation’s services breached s.14(1) of the Legal Services Act 2007. The court held that this illegality was not sufficient to cause the entire action to be struck out.
THE STATEMENT OF TRUTH
A statement of truth is required when proceedings are issued online, whilst a solicitor can sometimes sign a statement of truth on behalf of a client a non-authorised entity clearly cannot. The question of “who” signed the statement of truth was important. Unusually (this was an appeal) the judge heard evidence on this issue.
THE JUDGMENT ON THIS ISSUE
23. Who signed the statement of truth on the Claim Form?
Pausing there in the history, I turn to the question of whether the Claimants signed the statement of truth on the Claim Form  for the purposes of the CPR. The format of the statements of truth on the Claim Form and the Particulars of Claim  is the same:
Statement of Truth
I believe that the facts stated in this form are true
Signed MrMrs Harjit / Jagbir Gill date 09 May 2018
Full name Mr/Mrs Harjit / Jagbir Gill
The reproduction of the Claimants “signatures” and their names in the statement of truth follows the same compressed format as the names which were typed in by Mr Turner and which appear at the top of the Claim Form on .
24. The issue that arose at the hearing on 28 June 2018 was whether the Claimant(s) had signed the statement of truth.
The Duty Solicitor pointed out that under the statement of truth as printed on the Claimant Form  next to the box requiring “the Claimant or the Claimant’s solicitor’s address to which documents or payments should be sent…” is the address of the Fentham Group, together with the e mail firstname.lastname@example.org and Remove a Tenant’s telephone number. That suggested that it was not the Claimants who had signed the statement of truth but Remove a Tenant. I now have Mr Gill’s evidence on the point.
25. What are the requirements of the CPR in these circumstances?
(1) CPR Part 22.1(6) requires that a statement of truth to a statement of case must be signed by the party, their litigation friend or legal representative. PD 22 para 3.1 is to the same effect
. (2) CPR Part 5.3 provides that: Where any of these Rules or any practice direction requires a document to be signed, that requirement shall be satisfied if the signature is printed by computer or other mechanical means
(3) PD 55B provides for the PCOL scheme. The relevant provisions are these:
Starting a claim 6.1
A claimant may request the issue of a claim form by
(a) Completing an online Claim Form at the PCOL website;
(b) Paying the appropriate fee electronically … Statement of truth 8.1 CPR Part 22 requires any statement of case to be verified by a statement of truth. This applies to any online claims … [my emphasis]
9.1 Any provision of the CPR which requires a document to be signed by a person is satisfied by that person entering his name on an online form.
26. I regarded Mr Gill as an honest witness. He was obviously angry at having to go through the process of proving his case when, to his mind, his tenant owed him a lot of rent and had no good reason for not giving back possession of the property. Mr Turner was not a particularly impressive witness. He was prepared to confirm on oath that his witness statement was true on the basis that he knew “pretty much” what it said. Even after he had had the opportunity to read it and had confirmed it unchanged, there were discrepancies between what was in the statement and the evidence he gave. But I accept the evidence Mr Gill gave (and which Mr Turner confirmed) that when it came to ticking the box (or clicking the icon) on the online form to signify agreement to the statement of truth on the Claim Form, it was Mr Gill who did that. His evidence is that he was advised (by Mr Turner) that he should do this “to make it legal” and that he asked his wife ifshe agreed to him doing that, and she did. He was not making that up.
27. Is that sufficient to comply with the requirements of the rules? No. The notion of a signature is that it is applied personally. That is reflected in the requirements of CPR Part 5.3 and PD55B para 9. This “signature” was applied by Mr Turner when he entered the Claimants names on the online form. Mr Gill accepted that he did not enter his name on this form.
28. As I understand it, the section of the online form which provides for the verification of the information in the Claim Form by making a statement of truth does not make provision for the entry of the Claimants name. The Claimants name is only inserted once during the online process, and that is at the start. At the statement of truth stage the form requires that a box be ticked (or an icon clicked) next to a provision indicating that by doing so the Claimant is verifying the truth of the contents of the Claim Form. There is also a reference to the consequences of making a false statement. The Claimants name and “signature” as we see it printed out on the Claim Form at  is automatically inserted by the online system next to the statement of truth (here in the same compressed format). No doubt that makes the form less time consuming to complete, but it is not a happy fit with the requirements of the rules or the PD.
29. What are the consequences of that failure in this case? CPR Part 22.2(1) provides that:
(1) If a party fails to verify his statement of case by a statement of truth –
(a) the statement of case shall remain effective unless struck out; but
(b) the party may not rely on the statement of case as evidence of any of the matters set out in it. (2) The court may strike out a statement of case which is not verified by a statement of truth
30. Whilst the Claimants have failed to comply with the requirement of the rules for the signature of the statement of truth on the Claim Form, on the facts of this case I would not strike it out. The form was completed by Mr Turner who entered the Claimants names, but Mr Gill knew what was in the form, and he (with his wife’s authority) clicked the statement of truth icon to signify its truth. So far as he was concerned, he was verifying the Claim From. That may not comply with the letter of the rules, but in the context of the online process, it meets the purpose of the provisions. The fact that the Claimants cannot rely on the Claim Form as evidence is not a problem for their case, for they signed a witness statement verifying the particulars of claim  for use at the first hearing.”