REMOTE WORKING AND THE LITIGATOR 1: THE NEW REQUIREMENT FOR WITNESS STATEMENTS
Given that many of us will be working from home and not having direct contact with colleagues or clients I am starting a series on the issues we litigators currently face. The first looks at the issues caused by the new requirements for witness statements.
THE NEW RULES
From the 6th April 2020 there is a new section in PD 32. This relates to witness evidence and requires that the witness statement should state:-
“(5) the process by which it has been prepared, for example, face-to-face,
over the telephone, and/or through an interpreter.”
Note that this is a mandatory obligation.
TAKING A STATEMENT OVER THE PHONE
It is likely that, for the foreseeable future, witness statements will be taken over the phone. Many statements being taken now will be subject to this rule.
STATING THE CIRCUMSTANCES IN WHICH THE STATEMENT CAME TO BE TAKEN
To avoid any suggestion in the future that any such statements are of less value than statements taken face to face it may be prudent to add, something like.
“This statement has been prepared following discussions taking place on the telephone (at a time when government guidance cautioned against face-to-face meetings)”
You may wish to revise this wording to your own preference. However the important thing is that it is sending out a clear message to the court that a face-to-face meeting was not feasible. A statement taken in these circumstances is not, in any way, a second-rate statement.
This is one of the many topics I will be considering in a webinar on the 25th March “Civil Procedure and the Coronavirus: Practical Solutions in an uncertain time.” Booking details are available here.