Are you ready for the truth on 6th April?
In our alert on the 113th update of the Civil Procedure Rules, including significant amendments to the Practice Directions on statements of truth and mandatory content in statements of claim for claims including hire of an alternative vehicle, we outlined the new rules and what the effect and ultimate consequences of the combined amendments would mean for credit hire claims.
In this alert we concentrate on the requirements for the statement of truth (SOT) and special requirements for documents in a foreign language. The full changes can be found here.
Statements of Truth generally
The amendments relate to all SOT, whether they be on a statement of case or witness statement and come into force on 6th April 2020.
The new wording conveys the very real and serious consequences of making a false statement:
“I believe that the facts stated in this [statement of case/witness 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.”
Specific changes for statements of truth not in the witness’s own language
The amendments strengthen and clarify the procedural framework for foreign witness statements and require that where a witness statement is in a foreign language the party wishing to rely on it must:
- confirm in the statement the process by which it has been prepared e.g. face-to-face, over the telephone, and/or through an interpreter
- sign a SOT in the new format as above in their own language
- have the statement translated
- have the translated statement signed and dated by the translator to certify that the translation is accurate (no longer requiring an affidavit)
- file both the translated and foreign language witness statement with the court
What if a SOT is signed and dated before 6th April 2020 but served afterward?
At the time of publication of the amendments it was not clear what would happen if the SOT was signed before 6th April but served on or after 6th April. However, we have received confirmation from MOJ lawyers that the rule change only applies to SOT signed after 5th April.
Can we get a case struck out if the SOT is defective?
Documents signed after 5th April 2020 without the new wording arguably have a defective SOT. However, there is no automatic sanction within the CPR for failing to verify a document with a SOT. The Court may strike out a statement of case or order that a witness statement is not admissible but they would have to do so of their own volition or in response to an application.
Will the new wording be of more concern to fraudsters or genuine witnesses?
Only time will tell whether the additional wording in the SOT will deter fraudsters. However, it is likely that in some cases genuine witnesses may be reluctant to sign their statements. There is a risk of losing valuable witness evidence but with careful explanation, we believe that any concerns can be addressed.
Are there any Covid-19 issues?
We do not anticipate and issues with the general form of the SOT. However, we believe that the current situation will impact on foreign language statements and we would recommend being as reasonable as possible with opponents who may need more time to comply with these new requirements, as we would expect them to be with us when the position is inevitably reversed.
What we have done to prepare
- case handlers have been provided with guidance on the new requirements so that documents that are being sent out now but my be signed after 5th April have the additional wording.
- the necessary changes have been made to our case management system.
- instructions to enquiry and other agents will include a reminder of the new requirements to ensure compliance.
What we recommend you do
- update any guidance and training material for your handlers.
- amend any of your own templates for statements or instructions to agents (e.g. for BHR reports) to the new wording.
- ensure through your supply chain managers that your appointed enquiry and other agents are aware of the changes.