THE NEW WITNESS STATEMENT REQUIREMENTS AND ADMIRALTY CLAIMS: NEW RULES WILL APPLY
The new requirements for certification of witness statements in the Business and Property Courts come into force on the 6th April 2021. Initially it was thought that Admiralty claims may be excluded, because of the importance of contemporary statements in this particular jurisdiction. However the Admiralty Court Users Committee has recommended that the new provisions do apply. A Practice Note has been issued by the Admiralty Judge.
PRACTICE NOTE: CPR PD 57AC IN ADMIRALTY CLAIMS
2. A reservation was expressed about applying PD 57AC to certain witness evidence often
seen in this Court, namely first hand accounts collected at the time of or immediately after
a maritime casualty or incident, taken from ship’s crew, engineering staff and/or officers
where there may have been language or other difficulties, stressful conditions and/or
significant time pressure. Such contemporaneous evidence, if collected sensibly, will tend
to be valuable and by nature apt for dispensation to be given under paragraph 4.2 or 4.4 of
PD 57AC (if required) to allow it later to be used for trial. The expressed concern is
therefore catered for within PD 57AC, so that PD 57AC does not require to be amended or
disapplied for Admiralty claims.
3. Any application under paragraph 4.2 or 4.4 of PD 57AC will be judged on its individual
merits, but Admiralty Court litigants and their advisers may proceed on the basis that the
Court is familiar with the realities of collecting evidence concerning a maritime casualty
or incident. Where the application is founded upon such realities, it should be supported
by evidence showing how full adherence to all the requirements of PD 57AC would have
been impractical and that steps were taken to try to ensure, so far as practicable, that the
evidence obtained was no more than the witness’s own honest account, set out as they
would give it. If an application supported by such evidence is made prior to the date on
which trial witness statements are to be served, the Court will generally seek to determine
the application without requiring the statement, or its detailed contents, to be disclosed.
IN-HOUSE WEBINAR ON WITNESS STATEMENTS
In April this year those practising in the Business and Property Courts (now including Admiralty cases) will be subject to much more stringent requirements in relation to the preparation of witness statements relating to trial. The lawyer conducting the case will have to sign a Certificate of Compliance in relation to witness statements served at trial. I have prepared an in-house webinar that deals with these new rules and the steps that litigators have to take to comply, protect their clients and protect themselves.
Details are available at firstname.lastname@example.org