MORE ON THE NEW STATEMENT OF TRUTH: CAN YOU CHANGE THE WORDING?
I have had questions, from several sources, about whether it is possible to amend the “new form” of the statement of truth when a document is not being signed by a party to litigation.
PRACTICE DIRECTION 22.
The new rule contains this wording.
Form of the statement of truth
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.’
PRACTICE DIRECTION 32
However the Rule Committee do not appear to have amended PD 32.
STATEMENTS OF CASE
26.1 A statement of case may be used as evidence in an interim application provided it is verified by a statement of truth18.
26.2 To verify a statement of case the statement of truth should be set out as follows:
‘[I believe][the (party on whose behalf the statement of case is being signed) believes] that the facts stated in the statement of case are true’.
26.3 Attention is drawn to rule 32.14 which sets out the consequences of verifying a witness statement containing a false statement without an honest belief in its truth.
THE QUESTION ASKED
Several people have asked whether, given this apparent ambiguity, it is possible to revise the statement of truth, basically to take the onus off the person signing the statement of truth – and placing it on the person making the statement.
‘[I believe][the (claimant or as may be) believes] that the facts stated in this [name document being verified] are true. I [The Claimant/Defendant] understands 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.’
MY VIEW (AND I STRESS THAT THIS IS A PERSONAL VIEW): YOU CAN’T CHANGE IT
My view is that it is unwise to attempt to change the statement of truth in this way. The first paragraph of PD 22. para 2.1 makes it quite clear that this statement of truth is designed to cover those cases where a statement of truth is being signed on behalf of a party and not just by the party itself. I can fully understand why a lawyer may feel uncomfortable signing this new statement of truth, however if they are signing on behalf of their client, they cannot revise the wording set out in Practice Direction 22. PD 32 will, presumably, be revised once the Rule Committee realise their omission. Certainly the wording of PD 22 is absolutely clear.
BEFORE SIGNING SATISFY YOURSELF THAT THE CLIENT UNDERSTANDS THE STATEMENT OF TRUTH (AND BE ABLE TO PROVE IT)
Not for the first time I remind everyone of the provisions of PD 22 3.7 – 3.8. A legal representative is best advised to make sure that there is a clear documentary record of the significance of the statement of truth being explained to the client.
“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 COUNTY COURT ONLINE PRACTICE DIRECTION
This provides an even starker reminder of the duties of the legal representative signing a statement of truth.