There are several high profile cases in which judges have expressed scepticism (sometimes profound scepticism) about whether a witness statement really reflects the knowledge of a witness. A short, but telling, passage in the judgment of Mr Justice Mitting in TLT & Others -v-Secretary of State for the Home Department [EWHC] 2217 (QB) is another example. The claimant had matters attributed to her in her witness statement which, when giving evidence, she did not pretend to understand. Matters such as this can often cast severe doubt on the authenticity of a statement and the credibility of the witness (although in this case the witness was fortunate).
The claimants were bringing actions for breach of the Data Protection Act. The court had to consider the credibility of one of the witnesses.
Assessment of her truthfulness and reliability as a witness is made more difficulty by two factors. (1) The First Tier Tribunal’s judge’s disbelief of her core account. For reasons which I do not know, I have not been shown his determination and reasons but I accept the quotation to which I referred in the Home Office letter. (2) The flat tone in which she gave evidence through an interpreter, consistent with the diagnosis made by Jackie Roberts, the psychotherapist and counsellor with the Helen Bamber Foundation, of complex post-traumatic stress disorder and major depressive disorder. I am, on balance, satisfied that she attempted to tell me the truth about her circumstances in the United Kingdom. Most of her oral evidence was given in a calm and straightforward way. It included her acceptance of the Home Office apology, which it might not have done if she had consciously exaggerated her criticisms and fears, and she did not pretend to understand things attributed to her in her witness statement, such as what a “screen grab” was.
RELATED POSTS ON WITNESS STATEMENTS
There are numerous posts on witness statements on this blog. Two of the most widely read are:
- Witness statements: The Chancery Guide: Something for us all.
- Drafting witness statements that comply with the rules: a checklist too important to ignore.
In relation to the lawyer’s duty:-
- Witness statements, the weather and the District Judge
- Witness statements and avoiding jail: are you protecting your clients and protecting yourself?
- My witness statement was drafted by my lawyer: thank you officer.
- Drafting witness statements: Guidance from the Bar Council that every litigator should read.
- Taking evidence: witness statements and not misleading the court.
- Witness statements: the lawyer’s duty not to mislead
- Fraudulent claimants and the need for self-protection by lawyers
- Witness statements: when things go wrong – blame the solicitor.
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