We have both previously posted about Mehta v Child Support Agency, in which the EAT doubted the usefulness of having witnesses read their statements aloud: see Reading statement aloud and Follow up on witness statements.

Another consequence of the shift in practice this has caused is that tribunals are more likely to want to pre-read not only the witness statements, but also the key documents they refer to. This means it’s a good idea to have formed a view before the hearing starts which documents the tribunal is going to need to read in full, and roughly how long it’s going to take them. Agree a pre-reading list with the other side if possible.

How do you decide which documents to put on your list? This isn’t a hugely important decision, so don’t agonise over it – but sensible decisions will help the hearing go more smoothly, so a few rules of thumb may be helpful.

  • Include any substantial document that forms a crucial part of the story: e.g. in a dismissal case, notes of the investigation meeting, the letter inviting you to a disciplinary hearing, notes of the disciplinary hearing, the dismissal letter, your appeal, notes of the appeal hearing, the appeal outcome letter
  • But don’t make them read lengthy documents just for ‘completeness’ – so e.g. if there are pages and pages of notes of the investigation meeting and the disciplinary hearing, covering very similar ground, you may not need to make the tribunal pre-read both.
  • Just because you haven’t put a document on the pre-reading list, it doesn’t mean you can’t take a witness to it in cross examination.
  • Don’t include documents that won’t make any sense to the tribunal until a witness has explained how it works and what it means.
  • Don’t bother with very short documents whose whole significance the tribunal can be expected to get at a glance.
  • How long will pre-reading take?

    It depends, of course. How many pages there are to read. Whether they are single or double spaced. Whether they are typed or handwritten; and if handwritten – whether by a primary school teacher or a doctor. How quickly the slowest member of the tribunal reads. Whether they are clear and succinct, or waffly and verbose.

    For now, try 50 pages an hour as a rough rule of thumb. And please make a note in your next hearing of how many pages you ask the tribunal to read, and how long it takes them – and then comment on this post, so that we can collect some data and refine this estimate.

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