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New documents in the course of the hearing

Suppose that in the course of the hearing your client realises that an important answer given by one of the respondent’s witnesses can be proved wrong by a document that she has at home, but that she has not previously shown you or mentioned. She goes home and looks out the document and brings it the next day. When you look at it, you think it is extremely helpful to her case.

What do you do? Can you use this document?

The first thing to note is that if the document is relevant, it ought to have been disclosed to the other side before the hearing began and included in the bundle. It has to be disclosed now, so give a copy to the other side’s representative, with apologies for not having disclosed it earlier, at the first opportunity. Don’t make excuses at this point, but find out from your client why the document was overlooked previously so that you can be ready with your explanation for late disclosure in case the tribunal asks you.

The next thing is to decide how to deal with the new document in evidence. If the witness in question is still giving evidence, you should just be able to show him a copy of the document and ask him questions about it.

If the witness in question has finished his evidence, you may wish to have him recalled so that you can ask some further questions. Tread carefully at this point, though, and be ready for a tussle with the tribunal: the Chairman will not be keen to bring witnesses back after their evidence has apparently finished. You are on the moral low ground to the extent that the document should have been disclosed earlier. If there is any risk that recalling the witness will extend the hearing so that it needs an additional day, think hard about how important it is to be able to ask him about this document. Can another of the respondent’s witnesses sensibly be asked to confirm that, in light of this document, his evidence must have been mistaken? If the hearing is extended because you insist on recalling a witness to deal with a document that your side should really have disclosed earlier, you are likely to face a costs application.

Similar considerations apply if your client produces a document that she says proves she is right on an issue she was given a hard time about in cross-examination. You may want to recall her after the end of her evidence to explain the document, but avoid this if you can: you may be able to make your point about the document just as well, if the respondent’s evidence is yet to come, by cross-examining one of their witnesses about it.

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