Statements of Truth in litigation - what are they and what do they mean?
14th December 2022
14th December 2022
Parties to litigation are required to conduct themselves and what they say within those proceedings with honesty. Accordingly, throughout various stages of litigation either in the Courts or Tribunals, the parties will be required to sign (or authorise their legal representatives to sign) a ‘statement of truth’. Understanding what that is and what it means is important for all parties to litigation.
What is a statement of truth?
A statement of truth is a statement in writing, required to be used in certain Court (or Tribunal) documents, which confirms that the facts set out in the document are true. Under the Court’s Civil Procedure Rules (‘CPR’), documents that must be verified by a statement of truth include, for example:-
any statement of case (e.g. a claim or a defence, or documents pertinent thereto)
applications made in the proceedings.
Part 22 of the CPR provides details of the requirements around statements of truth and this is supplemented by Practice Direction 22. Separately, the Tribunals issue their own rules as to the documents that must include a statement of truth.
There is a standard form of wording which must be used for statements of truth, set out in Practice Direction 22, as follows:
“I [or the Claimant/Defendant] believe[s] that the facts stated in this [name of document being verified] are true. I [or the Claimant/Defendant] understand[s] 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”.
The statement of truth must be dated with the date on which it was signed. It does not need to be sworn or witnessed.
Who may sign the statement of truth?
Statements of truth in most Court documents must be signed either by the party themselves, their litigation friend, or the legal representative acting for the party or litigation friend. Where the document is signed by a company or other corporation, the statement of truth must be signed by a person holding a senior position in the company or corporation (usually a company director). That person must state the office or position they hold.
A statement of truth verifying a witness statement must be signed by the witness giving that statement personally.
Can a legal representative sign the statement of truth on their client’s behalf?
Where a party is legally represented, the legal representative may sign a statement of truth on their client’s behalf (save in relation to statements of truth in witness statements). In doing so, the legal representative confirms the belief of their client as to the facts set out in the statement made, and not that of the legal representative themselves. In signing a statement of truth on behalf of a client, the legal representative confirms that:
the client on whose behalf they have signed has authorised them to do so
before signing, they have explained to the client that in signing the statement of truth, they are confirming the client’s belief that the facts stated in the document are true, and
before signing, they have informed the client of the possible consequences to the client if it should subsequently appear that the client did not have an honest belief in the truth of those matters stated in the relevant document.
What are the consequences of signing a statement of truth if you do not have an honest belief in the truth of the facts?
A person signing a statement of truth (or authorising a statement of truth to be signed on their behalf) must have an honest belief in the truth of the facts. If this is not the case, the person signing (or giving such authority) could be held to be in contempt of court. This may result in prosecution with a fine or custodial sentence. So this is not a matter to take lightly.
Can I submit a document without signing the statement of truth?
If a statement of case in Court litigation is submitted without a signed statement of truth, it will remain effective unless struck out by the Court, but the party may not rely on the statement of case as evidence of any of the matters set out in it. The Court may strike out the statement of case, and any party in the proceedings may apply for an order that unless the statement of case is verified within a set period, the statement of case will be struck out. The usual costs order for such an application will be that the costs be paid by the defaulting party.
Submitting a witness statement which has not been verified with a signed statement of truth may lead to the Court directing that it shall not be admissible as evidence.
Given the serious consequences outlined above, it is of utmost importance that, if you are required to sign a statement of truth (or to authorise one to be signed), you are content that the facts stated are true to the best of your knowledge and belief. If there is any doubt whatsoever, you should discuss the matter with those representing you and drafting the document on your behalf, before you sign the document (or authorise it to be signed). Not only can misleading information led to serious consequences for you personally, it can also be seriously detrimental to your case if you wish to renege from any facts or matters stated in any document verified by a statement of case, at a later date.
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