This information page will provide advice on the subject of ‘Witness Statements’. Witness statements are integral in setting out the evidence which a person intends to rely on during the course of family proceedings.
What is a Witness Statement?
A witness statement is a written document setting out the evidence of the person writing the witness statement. The evidence presented in the witness statement should include everything that a person intends to rely on in order to support their position.
A witness statement differs from a position statement insofar that a position statement does not contain evidence and is much more concise.
When should I file a Witness Statement?
It is generally the case that a witness statement cannot be considered unless prior permission is granted by the Judge. There are certain circumstances, for example where a person makes an urgent application, where there may not be time to seek the permission of the Judge and therefore it is recommended to submit a witness statement in conjunction with the urgent application.
The Judge will make directions to submit the witness statement prior to a certain date in advance of the upcoming court hearing. You may not be able to rely on evidence in the witness statement if the deadline is missed and therefore we would advise that a C2 form is submitted if exceptional circumstances arise which warrant an extension of the deadline.
Do I have to share the Witness Statement with the other parties in advance of the court hearing?
Yes. The witness statement will have to be shared with the Court, Cafcass and the other parties involved in the court proceedings unless directed otherwise by the Judge.
Who can file a Witness Statement?
A witness statement would generally only be submitted by those who are ‘party to proceedings’. However, a party to proceedings can request the permission of the Judge if they want someone who is not a party to proceedings to submit a witness statement in support of their case.
Please note that anyone who has submitted a witness statement must be prepared to give evidence orally in court if asked upon.
What should I include in a Witness Statement?
Keep in mind the following points when drafting the witness statement:
- Keep it factual
- Only include what you remember. Do not provide an account of what you have been told by someone else.
- Provide names and dates
- Provide context to evidence. In the case of a photo, for example, state where and when it was taken and who captured the photo.
Click here to download a witness statement template which is particularly helpful in assisting a litigant in person. However, those submitting a witness statement are free to draft their own statement but must remember to include a ‘Statement of Truth’. This is a statement which is signed by the author confirming that the facts written in the witness statement are true. Consult Practice Direction 17A for further information on ‘Statements of Truth’.
The paragraphs and pages of the witness statement must be numbered and on single sides of A4 paper.
Contempt of Court proceedings can be brought against someone if it transpires that they have lied in their witness statement.
How do I include exhibits in the Witness Statement?
An exhibit is a piece of evidence that a person refers to in their witness statement and which should be attached to the statement. An exhibit should attest to a claim that is made in the main text of a witness statement. These can include:
- medical reports;
- school reports;
- bank statements;
- A print out of a text message.
- A photo
Each exhibit should be labelled separately (Perhaps the name of the person submitting the statement and numbers upwards, i.e. in the case of a Frank Garland FG01, FG02, FG03..). It must be explained what it is that is attached and why it is attached – what the exhibit shows or how it substantiates what is being said in the witness statement. The exhibit must be referred to (i.e. FB01) in the text of the witness statement and therefore the Judge can easily locate which exhibit is being highlighted.
Each individual exhibit should have a front page at the start with the same heading as at the start of the statement and the reference number for the exhibit. You can access a sample exhibit front page here: Exhibit Sheet.