Inquests: recommended change in practice when collecting witness statements or reports

Some of you may be aware, as of Monday 6 April, there is a new Practice Direction (PD 22) in the civil courts which requires a change to the wording of the statement of truth when producing a witness statement.

Now on the one hand, you might argue that the Coroner’s Court is not subject to the Civil Procedure Rules nor to Practice Directions. But on the other hand,  it is our view, coronial witness statements should use the new wording. Firstly, it is best practice and avoids ‘sloppy’ practice. Secondly, and of equal importance, it makes clear to a witness the risk of making a false statement when they sign it.

If a witness statement is read out in court (rather than the witness being summoned to give evidence in person) then the court is placing reliance on the statement of truth.

Anyway, in a judicial review you just never know where a statement might end up.

Our inquest team will be adopting this new practice.

The new wording is as follows:

“I believe that the facts stated in this statement 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.”

You might care to note it includes “ anyone who … causes to be made” and so this extends to others and, in particular, it could potentially extend to those who provide advice to witnesses.

Recommended action

We have updated our guidance and suggested templates to reflect this change in practice - you can find them on our inquest web page together with our all our other guidance documents and videos 

You can also read our client briefing on Statements of Truth here.

I am aware many of you have your own templates to help witnesses and we would recommend you update your templates and advice.

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