As a Claimant in a claim, or a witness on behalf of the Claimant, the Court rules require various documents to be signed by a ‘Statement of Truth’. This applies to various court documents, including:
- the Claim Form
- Particulars of Claim
- Schedule of Loss
- Disclosure lists
- Witness Statements
- Expert reports (although expert reports have unique wording under different court rules).
Here are ten points to be aware of when you are asked to sign a Statement of Truth.
1. The Statement of Truth will state “I believe the facts stated in this document are true”. Therefore, a person signing it must believe the content of the document is true.
2. The person signing the Statement of Truth must sign their usual signature and print their full name. It is normally dated too.
3. There is no need to have a witness (for example a solicitor) present when signing the Statement of Truth (this is sometimes confused for oaths).
4. If it comes to light that at the time a witness signed a Statement a Truth but knew that it was false, there can be serious consequences for the witness. For example, if a Claimant signs a Schedule of Loss, setting out the financial items they wish to recover as part of a compensation claim, and seeks to recover 3 months’ loss of earnings following an injury – but they were actually working (and therefore lied – having sustained no loss of earnings) then there may be serious consequences, such as a finding of Fundamental Dishonesty.
5. Court proceedings for contempt of court may be brought against a person if he/she 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.
6. Contempt of Court proceedings are likely if there is a clear element of dishonesty.
7. If a person is found guilty of contempt of court it is a criminal offence which can result in a prison sentence and/or fine.
8. If a case proceeds to a trial and the Claimant does not win the claim because the Judge does not accept the witnesses’ evidence, that does not mean they provided a false Statement of Truth. Very often in a trial, a Judge will often prefer one party’s evidence to the other but it does not mean the other evidence was false.
9. A witness cannot ask anyone else to sign a Statement of Truth on a witness statement. On some occasions Claimants in litigation may ask their solicitor to sign a Court document on their behalf (which is sometimes permitted in the Court rules) but this is rare.
10. If a document is not verified by a Statement of Truth and one is needed, then usually it cannot be relied upon as evidence in a claim.
Taking into the potential serious consequences of a Statement of Truth, it is essential that a witness and/or claimant asks their solicitor if they have any questions before they sign a Statement of Truth.