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How to Prepare a Witness Statement

By: Louise Smith, barrister - Updated: 24 May 2015 | comments*Discuss
 
Witness Statment Law Rights Protection

There is no legal requirement for a party in a small claims case to prepare a witness statement. The strict rules of evidence do not apply and it is common for parties to represent themselves. Small claims hearings are often more like a discussion between the parties and the judge than a formal trial. However, simply because there is no requirement to produce a witness statement, it does not mean that there is no value in having done so.

The Advantages of Having a Witness Statement

Preparing a witness statement can give a party the chance to get their case and documents in order. A witness statement should tell the judge (and the other side) exactly what the party’s case is. If this has already been put in a witness statement there is less danger that the party will forget to mention something important on the day of the hearing. Sitting in a court room can do funny things to people’s brains – it is much easier to get the facts straight in the comfort of one’s own home.

If a party provides the court with a witness statement the judge will probably have had the chance to read it before the hearing begins. This will mean more time can be spent deciding the case rather than going over the facts.

The Format of a Witness Statement

In the small claims court it is unlikely that a judge would criticize a litigant in person for having failed to follow the proper format for a witness statement. However, there are some basic points which will make a witness statement more useful:
  • The witness statement should give the name and claim number of the case at the top of the first page. Putting this information on each page will avoid pages being lost if they come apart.
  • The witness statement should state in bold at the top whose witness statement it is.
  • Pages should be paginated and fastened together.
  • Before setting out the background of the case the witness statement’s first paragraph should give the name and address of the person giving the statement and explain their involvement with the case.
  • Paragraphs should be numbered.
  • If the Witness Statement is more than a couple of pages long it may be helpful to break it down into sub headings, for example: The Agreement; The Works; The Damage; The Repairs etc.
  • The witness statement should be dated, and must be signed by the person making it.
The other side should be provided with a copy of the witness statement prior to the hearing.

Contents of a Witness Statement – Facts Not Law

A witness statement should tell a party’s story. All the facts of the case should be set out in chronological order. It is important to only include statements which the maker knows to be true. If a party does not know something for sure, but suspects it to be true, it should be expressed as a belief.

Witness statements are not really meant to contain legal arguments. However, if a legal point has been raised by the other party, or is likely to be raised, this could be addressed in the witness statement by reference to the facts of the case. For example, the defendant has said in their defence that the claimant should not be allowed to bring the claim because he waited more than six years to do so. This raises the legal issue of limitation. The claimant might respond to this in their witness statement by saying that he did not wait too long because until last year the defendant had kept promising to pay and even made some small token payments.

Witness Statements and Exhibits

In telling the party’s story the witness statement may refer to various documents that support the story. For example: contracts, invoices, letters etc. Copies of all of these documents should be attached at the end of the witness statement, in the same order as they are mentioned in the statement. When a document is referred to in the witness statement (for the first time), the statement should say that a copy of it is attached. Each exhibit should be labelled with a separate letter or number, which will be referred to in the witness statement. For example: “I attach at Exhibit A a copy of the invoice I sent to the defendant”.

The Statement of Truth

All witness statements must contain a statement of truth. The witness statement must include the following words:
  • I believe that the facts stated in this witness statement are true.
These may be included in the first paragraph after the witness has explained who they are.

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[Add a Comment]
@lily - yes- you will have the opportunity to leave one star and give details regarding why the purchase wasn't to your satisfaction.
AboutSmallClaims - 26-May-15 @ 2:59 PM
Can you use bad eBay feedback as part of your evidence to show the trader is not honest?
lily - 24-May-15 @ 2:32 PM
Can I withdraw an unsigned witness statement as Ido not wish to attend for family reasons and have been issued with a summons-although I have not taken possession of it?
Naz - 18-Jul-12 @ 6:10 PM
I am entering into a small claims court for money owed for work done. i gave the defendant an estimate with terms and conditions on the back which he accepted but now denies. I have no writen contract although he admits the work was done is my case no based on proving reasonable doubt? regards barry
nagy - 25-Feb-12 @ 11:18 AM
Could someone advise please - I have to submit standard disclosure by list on fri 23/09/11and need to know what I should include and not include. Would I include statement of truth and fully pleaded defence bearing in mind is this restricted from the claimants viewing? It is for an alleged credit card default which is going to county court. Many thanks. Worried.
worried - 20-Sep-11 @ 3:54 PM
I am preparing my statement for a small claim under which I am claiming damages for additional work which I am having to have carried out as the new house which I bought from the house builder was not in accordance with the house specification I was given. I have just chased the builders up over a number of outstanding snagging issues which I have kept separate from the claim. I have just been emailed by their customer service contact that the snagging is now being dealt with by senior management in light of the ongoing legal claim. My question is should I make mention of this in my statement as I am asking the court to award me my court fees as this matter should have been resolved long before this stage and I was considering whether or not I could use this as an example of how intransigent the builder was.RegardsKevin
Haggis - 7-Jun-11 @ 4:42 PM
Great help for someone to do it themselves when they can't afford a solicitor.Thank you
Susan Smerdon - 7-Apr-11 @ 5:34 PM
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