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What are the Rules on Court Evidence?

By: Louise Smith, barrister - Updated: 26 Apr 2019 | comments*Discuss
 
Claims Rules Evidence Court Law Legal

The strict rules of evidence do not apply to hearings in the small claims court. The intention is that litigants in person will find the small claims court to be an accessible means of obtaining justice. The rules governing all aspects of small claims hearings are simplified and state that hearings will be informal.

The Law on Evidence in the Small Claims Court

Part 27 of the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) sets out guidance for the conduct of small claims trials. This states that the usual rules on evidence at a court hearing do not apply to small claims cases. The only provision about evidence in general that does apply is that the court has the power:
  • to control the type of evidence it requires;
  • to define the issues on which it requires evidence to be given; and,
  • to specify the way in which evidence is given.
This rule is compounded by the very wide powers a judge has to decide how to conduct a small claims hearing.

Documentary Evidence

Whenever a case is proceeding towards a trial, the court will give directions which tell the parties what they need to do in preparation for the final hearing. For most types of cases this will include the preparation and exchange of witness statements and the disclosure to the other side of any documentary evidence which may be relevant to the case.

In the small claims court the directions given to the parties are usually very basic. In most small claims cases the parties will simply be told to send copies of all documents on which they intend to rely to the court and the other party at least seven days before the hearing. The parties are also told to bring the originals of all documents to the hearing. The types of documents will depend on the nature of the case but may include:

  • Contracts and agreements;
  • Letters, emails and any other correspondence between the parties;
  • Invoices;
  • Receipts;
  • Statements of account.
The judge has the power to give more specific directions if a particular case requires them.

Witness Statements

There is no general requirement in the small claims court for a party to provide a witness statement. However, a witness statement can save time and help both the party and the judge focus on the relevant facts and issues of the case. If a party does prepare a witness statement they must send a copy to the court and their opponent before the hearing.

Oral Evidence

Part 27 of the CPR contains special guidance on the use of oral evidence in the small claims court. In most hearings any person giving evidence must take a sworn oath or affirmation. However, in the small claims court the judge can allow parties to state their case – or give evidence – in a natural, conversational way.

If the judge becomes sceptical about a party’s version of events he may then ask the party to go on oath. Some people who take a liberal approach to the facts will often suddenly remember to tell the truth when they are put on oath - and reminded that it is a criminal offence to lie whilst on oath.

Cross Examination

Once a party has given their side of the story it is usually open to the other side to question them about anything that they have said. If a party’s case is set out in a witness statement the other side can ask questions about anything in the witness statement. The purpose of cross-examination is to cast doubt on that party’s case and / or to add weight to the other side’s case.

In the small claims court the judge has the power to limit cross-examination. Rather than the parties cross-examining each other the judge may even ask questions himself. This will prevent a litigant in person, unused to the cut and thrust of a courtroom, being at a disadvantage. The hearing is likely to be much less combative than most trials.

Expert Evidence

The use of expert evidence in small claims trials is extremely restricted. A party may only rely on expert evidence if he has obtained the judge’s permission in advance.

The Weight of Evidence

Although the strict rules of evidence do not apply to small claims hearings, it does not mean that anything goes. When deciding a case the judge will take into account all factors – including the type and quality of any evidence that he has heard or seen during the trial.

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Just received the defendant's witness statement of 3 short sentences for a small claims case I have brought against him.The witness statement has little resemblance to the defence he filed when I originally made the claim and one sentence actually contradicts what he said in his filed defence.The filed defence, although inaccurate, shows he knows exactly what has happened, whereas his witness statement says he knows nothing about it.Should I draw the judge's attention to this very obvious discrepancy before the case is heard as I believe he has knowingly declared a false statement of truth?Or, as I prepared all my exhibits based on what he said on the filed defence form, should I send in to the court a supplemental witness statement, with exhibits, to prove how inaccurate his witness statement is?
Ch - 19-Mar-19 @ 1:10 PM
My husband died suddenly whilst we were on holiday in Spain. We owned the property in Spain jointly, as it was wedding present from him. We both had wills in the UK and Spain, leaving each other sole beneficiaries. My stepson has turned nasty and claims his father told him he would own 1\3 of the property. I have been granted probate in Spain. We were both non residents in Spain spending only 6 months a year there. As my husbands UK assets amounted to his bank account only (I owned outright the UK property before we were married). The balance in his account was paid to his son by the bank. His son has now issued over £3000 in the small claims court against me. Having his fathers assets, and not paid for anything in the UK, he is claiming that the Spanish property be bought into the UK Will as assets. Is this possible under UK law? I am 70 years old, and really struggling with this entire situation, and your guidance would be so appreciated. Thank you.
dis - 8-Mar-19 @ 10:56 AM
Hello can advise please, I have been through the divorce process and the ex agreed to pay the court costs and this was ordered on Form D61 by the judge. Two years past and she did not pay despite reminders. The recent Final Hearing did not address these costs (£1000) as far as I am concerned this is a separate issue. Her solicitor has told her it would be too costly for me to litigate and it's been ignored and that because her client had extra costs in the final hearing that were not claimed for they should be offset which I know they can't as that matter was finalised and no costs claimed either side. My Barrister was unable to claim divorce costs and advised it was separate to the resolution hearing as it should have been paid on absolute two years ago. Do I stand a chance at a small claim.? My evidence being the court order and the invoice plus reminders.
Treefrog - 31-Dec-18 @ 9:28 PM
Any help with the post above regarding my former landlord PLEASE? I am really badly in need of advice on whether I should issue an application to the court to make an order to require him to produce the dates of deployment??My thoughts that if the information the defendant gave to the Judge is not true (which I suspect) and I am able to prove it unequivocally, it won’t be taken lightly and will completely destroy what little credibility he has. I am also unsure whether I can/should bring a claim for harassment under the Protection from harassment act 1977 (Landlord was issued with harassment pin notice just after I fled)This issue and being forced to live in a refuge for over four months was extremely traumatic and led to my health deteriorating. I am keen to obtain justice and to ensure that this horrendous man is adequately punished for his disgusting behaviour. Any advice would be appreciated.
Paradise - 30-Sep-18 @ 6:05 PM
@Evan - you're unlikely to be given the team-lead's pay checks as this is private and confidential.
OscV - 10-Aug-18 @ 12:38 PM
I have flled in a directions questionare and sent it back to court and a copy of this was sent to the defendant by special mail and he refused to accept it where do I stand
terry - 5-Aug-18 @ 10:26 AM
Chris W - Your Question:
My late father was owed monies by an exiting tenant for a shop he owned. We have a signed agreement (signed by both the tenant and his guarantor) to pay ca. £600 pounds for rent buildings insurance and water charges. This was signed feb 2014 and has not been paid. I contacted the debtor by phone who says he paid my father in cash and does not have any proof of this transaction. He says I need to prove that he has not paid this amount. The only evidence I have is this signed agreement and a photocopy of both his and his guarantor's passport. Will a CCJ accept this evidence?

Our Response:
You may wish to seek legal advice, as it is a tricky situation. As a general rule, it would be the tenant who would have to prove the money had been paid.
AboutSmallClaims - 15-Jun-18 @ 9:36 AM
My late father was owed monies by an exiting tenant for a shop he owned. We have a signed agreement (signed by both the tenant and his guarantor) to pay ca. £600 pounds for rent buildings insurance and water charges. This was signed feb 2014 and has not been paid. I contacted the debtor by phone who says he paid my father in cash and does not have any proof of this transaction. He says I need to prove that he has not paid this amount. The only evidence I have is this signed agreement and a photocopy of both his and his guarantor's passport. Will a CCJ accept this evidence?
Chris W - 14-Jun-18 @ 8:33 AM
My son was offered a place in the university which was later withdrawn at the middle of the first semester after having incurred £3247 for accommodation for the academic year . My son appealed decision and despite on appeal he was not allowed to attend lectures. My son's appeal was upheld with a "No contest" and was re-offered his place the following academic year. My sonis now asking for a refund of his accommodation fees which he was made to incur unnecessarily as a result of the university mistakes .it took 9 months for the university to reply after several letters and emails to offer my son £1000 as a "good gesture" with no admitting of liability which he turned down. He had since refer this issue to a small claims court to recover the £3247. Any chance of winning this case in a small claims court?
Freddro - 7-May-18 @ 10:12 PM
Hi, I’d like to know how can I get a recorded phone call by my motorbike insurance in which I have been intimidated and I have been told: “we will ask you for so much money and you would like to die for the rest of your life”. I would like to use it as an evidence during the trial
Cody84 - 9-Apr-18 @ 5:00 PM
Rich - Your Question:
We agreed with the other tenant via instant messaging service that we would split the rent payable in certain shares as opposed to half it. She paid her share for a few months but then decided that it is too much and no longer likes this split. As a result she would not pay the share we agreed on but wants to half it so my share goes up as I am supposed to cover her part too (a joint tenancy agreement). Is viber, what's up, and Iphone instant messages admissible evidence in small court cases to get her part that I have paid and will be paying for back?

Our Response:
If you can prove via text or email that the other tenant agreed to pay, then you have a case. Unless, the division is deemed unequal then you would stand a good chance. However, you may wish try to resolve this either through mutual negotiation or via mediation if you can.
AboutSmallClaims - 9-Mar-18 @ 11:09 AM
We agreed with the other tenant via instant messaging service that we would split the rent payable in certain shares as opposed to half it. She paid her share for a few months but then decided that it is too much and no longer likes this split. As a result she would not pay the share we agreed on but wants to half it so my share goes up as I am supposed to cover her part too (a joint tenancy agreement). Is viber, what's up, and Iphone instant messages admissible evidence in small court cases to get her part that I have paid and will be paying for back?
Rich - 8-Mar-18 @ 12:54 PM
My partner completed a lovely house renovation was paid with no complications. 8 months later we receive a solicitors letter saying they are seeking compensation of £35,000 for work to be corrected. They never called him & it was signed off by the building inspector. They have said this is wrong that is wrong as the year has gone on they are adamant that no one from our side are allowed in the property so they are now taking him to court & his solicitor is saying that judges normally take the homeowners side but how the hell can this be justice when it is only their say so & no one else has been in the house they could just be saying this just to get money! They have had a couple of other builders quoting on what they say needs to be corrected but come on there are builders that would just lie to get work & they are heavily priced. It has destroyed our lives that he is beingtreated so unfairly & his solicitor is suppose to specialise in this sector & costing us a lot of money surely this is suppose to be fairly looked at not just their say so!
TJ - 6-Mar-18 @ 9:00 PM
bellpine - Your Question:
I have a tenant who has been harassing another tenant over a parking issue. Will small claims allow written statements from other tenants who have witnessed the harrassment admissible as evidence?

Our Response:
If harassment is taking place, you can see more via the link here, as it should be dealt with as a police matter.
AboutSmallClaims - 26-Feb-18 @ 12:48 PM
i have a tenant who has been harassing another tenant over a parking issue. Will small claims allow written statements from other tenants who have witnessed the harrassment admissible as evidence?
bellpine - 26-Feb-18 @ 4:09 AM
Hi I bought a car from a trader and a warrenty he sold me tell me and my mum it would cover the car no matter what so we purchased it after4- 6 weeks the car broke down and it hasn't moved since I rang the warrenty company told them what had happened got the car towed to a garageand they then contacted the warranty company to tell them the fault and they wanted the parts sent of to be tested this took 3 weeks and they refused to pay out saying the fault was down to wear and tear , I've gone back to the trader and explained they not gonna pay out what is he gonna do about it as a trader he has a responsibility to fix the problem or give me a refund but he is refusing to help in any way could I take this to small claims to get the cost of repair which is £700 and I would like to claim cost of warranty back as he mis sold it us
Katie - 10-Jan-18 @ 6:28 PM
I am taking a client to court for not paying 3 of her invoices, Due to unfortunate circumstances I missed the deadline to send my evidence to small claims and to the other party before the hearing. The hearing is in 2018, can I still take evidence with me on the day?
Loo96 - 7-Dec-17 @ 6:14 PM
Jim - Your Question:
Myself and the other joint tenant of the house we share had an agreement that he should pay the water bill arrears, I should pay the council tax bill arrears and that he would start paying his share of the council tax bill, once he’d paid off the waterbill (council tax arrears was a £1000 more than the water bill). He is now refusing to pay his share of the council tax bill, despite agreeing via text, plus in front of a witness (landlady) and will not respond to my messages. There are no other financial arrangements between us or money owed. Would copies of bank statements for payment to council/receipts from collection agency plus screenshots of text messages be enough evidence for the court, if mediation does not work or isn’t accepted?

Our Response:
Yes, any evidence that your joint tenant has given you written or otherwise (i.e; texts emails etc), can be used as evidence in the small claims court. A letter before action may help, please see link here .
AboutSmallClaims - 5-Dec-17 @ 1:41 PM
Myself and the other joint tenant of the house we share had an agreement that he should pay the water bill arrears, I should pay the council tax bill arrears and that he would start paying his share of the council tax bill, once he’d paid off the waterbill (council tax arrears was a £1000 more than the water bill). He is now refusing to pay his share of the council tax bill, despite agreeing via text, plus in front of a witness (landlady) and will not respond to my messages. There are no other financial arrangements between us or money owed. Would copies of bank statements for payment to council/receipts from collection agency plus screenshots of text messages be enough evidence for the court, if mediation does not work or isn’t accepted?
Jim - 4-Dec-17 @ 8:21 PM
The respondent submitted their witness statements 2 hours after receivingmine and wants to add further documents. Is this allowed?
Mand - 20-Nov-17 @ 3:40 AM
I had a horse trailer for over 4 years which I sold in March 2016.About August 2016 the person I sold it to asked for a receipt as she had sold it.I said I couldn't give a receipt this far from the sale date, she said she had resold the trailer.Anyway in July 2017, I get a message from her saying she had sold the trailer recently and the person who brought it had found out it was stolen.Trailer was recovered and she had to pay her purchaser back.I said I was sorry to hear that, could she please provide me with evidence to support what she was saying. She said her word was enough, if I paid her now she would take £1,000 (purchase price for the trailer I sold was £1,800) and I should contact the person she sold it to as she had all the paperwork.Within 4weeks she has now issued court summons claiming purchase price pluses interest from March 2016 stating I sold a stolen trailer, I think k she is saying I knew I sold a stolen trailer.I still have noting to support her text messages, only her word.What do I do? I have been out of work since May, just about to start a new job but I also don't have £1800 laying around.
Vimai - 25-Aug-17 @ 10:21 AM
Private nursery took refundable deposit will not refund it even though my child was refused entry to his first settling in session until more forms were signed nursery t&cs once a place has been accepted the deposit is non refundable but my child was never accepted I requested the cctv footage that's shows this refusal of entry but they are withholding this information also I have emails that prove the manager and chief of operations are lying do I have a case I feel that I do so I'm taking it to small claims court can a nursery accept a child place without obtaining the legal information to allow a hold to enter the premises with a parent if he was not Refused entry I would have wanted him to attend am I entitled to my refund
Tt - 17-Aug-17 @ 10:44 AM
my ex is going to try to claim for belongings she left at my property when she left... i realize she must have receipts as proof of items she left but i think she may be adding things on that she never owned here... she may be getting receipts from friends/family to add in so would receipts in court have to be from her account as proof? or can she collect recipts from cash sales too?
richy - 14-Aug-17 @ 7:31 PM
My ex landlord was taken to court over section 21 by myself. I claimed in court he was throwing me out over repairs. The day of court I was really confused about all these strange questions the judge was asking me that I just didn't have answers to. I became homeless anyway a few months later I went back to court and asked why the judge asked weird questions. So they gave me the whole file of the case and apparently the landlords put in a closing statement that I didn't know about. After reading it everything was nothing but lies after lies after lies. Anyway I've been homeless all this time which has been 16months and have just settled in to permanent accommodation so now I want to sue for all my money back that I put in to that property as they verbally claimed to me it was long term... also in an email. No one is willing to just answer my questions that I ask if I can sue them or not. So can I use my ex landlord for lien in court and claim my money back that I spent on the house? £3000 worth.
Zee - 5-Aug-17 @ 9:16 PM
Mas - Your Question:
My friends ex is with holding money which is used to pay for their daughters nursery. They agreed via emails and text messages on how much he would pay but now he is holding some of the money back and refusing to give it to her. Does she have a case?

Our Response:
Much depends upon the reason why the money is being held back. Mediation is the first port of call, and/or court if your friends cannot agree. However, court will cost in both court fees and legal representation if needed.
AboutSmallClaims - 25-Jul-17 @ 12:38 PM
My friends ex is with holding money which is used to pay for their daughters nursery. They agreed via emails and text messages on how much he would pay but now he is holding some of the money back and refusing to give it to her. Does she have a case?
Mas - 24-Jul-17 @ 5:53 PM
Bobby - Your Question:
I am going to court soon with my ex partner and her brother that had a large vets bill for 1 of their horses it had to go to Newmarket it cost over £18,000 I lent them 10,000 now we are no longer together.it's the old story it was a gift of love to her and they have falslsefied evidence but luckily I've got a lot of text from her agreeing to pay me back with a direct debit but her brother is saying it's nothing to do with him.he's leaving her to tack the fall coes he as a couple of houses.so my word to any one out there is to get it all done in writing no matter who it is. your mother , brother even the Holly ghost.in writing all the time.bob Nott's.

Our Response:
Many thanks for your comments. Absolutely, it takes a few minutes to put something in writing and it can save you a whole lot of financial heartache and stress if you do.
AboutSmallClaims - 19-Jun-17 @ 1:44 PM
I am going to court soon with my ex partner and her brother that had a large vets bill for 1 of their horses it had to go to Newmarket it cost over £18,000 I lent them 10,000 now we are no longer together ....it's the old story it was a gift of love to her and they have falslsefied evidence but luckily I've got a lot of text from her agreeing to pay me back with a direct debit but her brother is saying it's nothing to do with him ....he's leaving her to tack the fall coes he as a couple of houses .....so my word to any one out there is to get it all done in writing no matter who it is .... your mother , brother even the Holly ghost ....in writing all the time...bob Nott's.
Bobby - 18-Jun-17 @ 5:57 AM
@Jj - Sounds a bit petty all round. It depends whether he has good back up story and can justify his loss of earnings. If you were not insured to drive it from that moment, then you too would have a good reason for leaving it. It's 50/50.
Mr - 5-May-17 @ 10:08 AM
My ex and I are having a separation agreement drawn up. Recently he took away his company car from me and said I was no longer entitled to drive it (phone call) I text him referencethisand he failed to reply. So I left the car where it was (165 miles from home). He is now requesting £250 for going to get the car, claiming loss of earnings (he was already booked on holiday from work when he went to get the car) and was actually at the army reserves that day. Is he entitled to this money? Can he claim loss of earnings when he could of got the car in an alternative day and was paid a holiday day? Should I offer to pay his mileage? Where do I stand as I do not want a ccj against me over something so trivial.
Jj - 4-May-17 @ 6:13 AM
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