THE IMPORTANCE OF THE STATEMENT OF TRUTH (1): WHY IT NEEDED “BEEFING UP” (THE RULES COMMITTEE COULD HAVE DONE THIS FIVE YEARS AGO…)

Yesterday was, by a long way, the busiest day on this blog ever.  The reason for this being that everyone is anxious to know the new wording for the statement truth.  There is a need for a short series on the significance of the statement of truth and the important requirements that practitioners must know.   We start by looking at a blog post I wrote five  years ago about the inadequate wording of the statement of truth. In August 2015 I wrote “The Statement of Truth: does it need “beefing up“: the police say witnesses dont’s understand it’s significance.” It was a result of comments made by the judge in the Accident Exchange case.  That blog foreshadowed th need for a significant addition to the statement of truth.

THE ACCIDENT EXCHANGE CASE

It is worthwhile reading the judgment in Accident Exchange Ltd -v- George-Broom & others [2015] EWHC 2205 (Admin). The Divisional Court refused an application  to strike out the application by the respondents. The respondents were accused of systematic fraud and perjury in giving evidence on behalf of defendants as to spot rates for hire vehicles.

WHY THE POLICE REFUSED TO PROSECUTE

  1. There followed a stay of the contempt proceedings, ordered by Stanley Burnton LJ on 3 July 2012, it seems in order to avoid any pre-emption of the police investigation. In fact the City of London Police had looked at the case earlier, before the grant by this court of permission on 1 February 2012: see paragraph 5 of Irwin J’s judgment. However, by June 2012 the papers in the case had been served on the Attorney General pursuant to this court’s direction. His office had forwarded them to the Crown Prosecution Service (no later than 28 February 2012) and the City of London Police were asked to investigate. There followed further communications with the police. At one stage Mr. Evans wrote to the Professional Standards Department of the City Police. Then on 30 July 2014 DS Massey announced that he considered the allegations advanced by AEL were not made out, and there was no realistic prospect of a criminal prosecution. Mr. Evans (paragraphs 11-12 of his witness statement of 2 June 2015) reports at some length a meeting on 28 August 2014 at which, it is asserted, he was “staggered” by what DS Massey said:

“11(b)….he said that the defendants had no professional training in respect of the justice system and because of that they could not know the meaning of the statement of truth when they signed a witness statement or the significance of swearing an oath when giving evidence in court. As a consequence, he said, it could not be established that they had intentionally deceived anybody and the court would be unlikely to convict on the basis of what was probably a mistake

(d) the fact that we had the Mirror Disk in our possession threatened the entire investigation because we were open to allegations of tampering with evidence and there was doubt in his mind as to whether any prosecution would survive such an attack from a defence barrister.”

Mr. Evans later wrote indicating that the original of the Mirror Disk remained in the possession of the Autofocus liquidator. There is a contemporary note supporting Mr. Evans’ account of what DS Massey said.”

 

THE NEED FOR “BEEFING UP”

In 2015 I recommended that the statement of truth be amended to avoid assertions that “the defendants had no professional training in respect of the justice system and because of that they could not know the meaning of the statement of truth when they signed a witness statement”.

THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE WITNESS STATEMENT

The post in 2015 went on.

“If the present statement of truth is so vague and unclear  that the police feel that it is not possible to launch a prosecution when there has (allegedly) been systematic dishonesty it may be time to consider using the wording in the criminal justice system.

“This statement (consisting of       pages) is true to the best of my knowledge and belief and I make it knowing that, if it is tendered in evidence, I shall be liable to prosecution if I have wilfully stated in it anything which I know to be false, or do not believe to be true. “

This may need to be altered in a civil context:

“This statement (consisting of       pages) is true to the best of my knowledge and belief and I make it knowing that,  I shall be liable to prosecution  and/or in contempt of court if I have wilfully stated in it anything which I know to be false, or do not believe to be true. “

This may make a difference to some witnesses. It will, at the very least, prevent a conclusion that witnesses who sign a statement of truth dishonestly, do not realise the implications of doing so.”

THE ACTUAL WORDING IN THE NEW RULES

The wording in the new rules is:-

2.1 The form of the statement of truth verifying a statement of case, a response, an application notice or a notice of objections should be as follows:

‘[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.”.

2.2  The form of the statement of truth verifying a witness statement should be as follows:

‘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.”.