“DID NOT PRETEND TO UNDERSTAND THINGS ATTRIBUTED TO HER IN HER WITNESS STATEMENT…”

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 CASE

The claimants were bringing actions for breach of the Data Protection Act. The court had to consider the credibility of one of the witnesses.
  1. 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:

  1. Witness statements: The Chancery Guide: Something for us all.
  2. Drafting witness statements that comply with the rules: a checklist too important to ignore.

In relation to the lawyer’s duty:-

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One comment

  1. Binary Beagle · · Reply

    I’m not a lawyer. I’m a techie, but I enjoy reading your blog. Truly shocking handling by the Home Office. From what I can see they had data on a second tab in Excel that they failed to remove before publishing the data. It never ceases to amaze me how such important things are run through Excel in this way. I say this as someone who used to work in Government agencies and having witnessed first hand some shocking examples. The raw data should have been held in a secure database with only the data needed for the report being output to Excel. Entirely possible and quite easy to accomplish.

    As for the “screen grab” issue – that’s what caught my eye initially. I wondered whether this was a technical terminology issue. I see this happening in my own work with law firms. Even the lawyers call things by the wrong name or show a lack of understanding. I try to correct them where I can, but I can understand how these misunderstandings can seep deeper into the system. One person’s ‘screen grab’ is what another person would say ‘oh, that’s what that thing is called, I didn’t realise it was called that’. It worries me all this technical language and how technical things are these days, and yet a lot of people are not sufficiently educated/skilled.

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