A witness statement is a key element in any litigation and can strengthen or weaken a party’s case depending on the performance of a witness and the style and format of the statement. The purpose of the witness statement is to substantiate a party’s claim or defence and to fill in the gaps left by the available documents. Witnesses should be identified early and their statements should be taken as soon as possible. The format a witness statement should take is set out in the Civil Procedure Rules at Part 32 to 34.
A witness may provide evidence in the form of a written or oral statement and a witness statement will need to be prepared for:
- Interim Applications
- A written witness statement will be prepared and the witness will ordinarily not be called to give any oral evidence.
- A written witness statement will be prepared for trial and this will stand as the evidence in chief of the witness. The witness will then need to validate his witness statement when giving oral evidence during examination and cross examination by the opposing party.
The court has certain powers under CPR 32.2(3) in relation to witness statements which include:
- limiting the number of witnesses a party may call at trial (MacLennan v Morgan Sindall (Infrastructure) PLC);
- identifying or limiting the issues to which factual evidence may be directed;
- identifying the witnesses who may be called or whose evidence may be read; or
- limiting the length or format of witness statements.
Parties are also encouraged to identify the outstanding issues in the matter and accordingly, identify any witnesses the parties intended to call.