THE OTHER IMPORTANT RULE CHANGE TODAY IN RELATION TO WITNESS STATEMENTS: AND, HONESTLY, THIS COULDN’T HAVE COME AT A BETTER TIME
Along with changes to the statement of truth the rule changes effective from today now impose a further obligation in relation to witness statements. I have written about this before (but much has happened since).
THE NEW RULES
From today 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 social isolation was in force)”
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 possible. A statement taken in these circumstances is not, in any way, a second-rate statement.