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Follow up on Witness Statements

A few months back, Naomi wrote about Mehta v Child Support Agency, where President Underhill suggested that it was not always necessary for witnesses to read their statements aloud.

As Naomi suggested at the time, the case does seem to have caused a shift in tribunal practice. Although not the invariable rule, it has become much more common for statements to be read by the tribunal over a break in proceedings and, therefore, for cross-examination to begin almost immediately after a witness is sworn in.

This is worth noting for three reasons. First, tribunals are stressful, and it’s easy to be thrown if things don’t proceed quite as you expect.

Second, if you want a witness to read part or all of their statement, you need to be ready to explain why it’s necessary.

Third, if you’re used to cross-examining witnesses after they’ve read their statements aloud, you may have become reliant on the time that takes to catch your breath, shuffle your notes, remember who this witness is and where the fit into the story, re-read some of the documents they refer to, take a short nap, and so on. Not having witnesses read their statements aloud means everything moves along at a brisker pace, and you’ll have to cross-examine one witness straight after another .

One comment

  1. Loquax

    Here in the Southwest we have been taking statements as read for 10 years at least. I have experienced the process from both sides of the fence (as an advocate and a member). Although there is no intermission while witnesses read out their statements there is inevitably a delay in the start of the proceedings while the panel does. This can be time well spent for the parties in the waiting room especially when Counsel are involved since they may never have met their clients till this point. It can also, perhaps more controversially, give the panel an opportunity to form a preliminary view on the evidence and in some cases ask questions and/or offer a “steer” in one direction or another

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