Know How: What is a Statement of Truth?
A rather shocking case has highlighted the need for witnesses to read their witness statement. That sounds rather obvious, right? So what went wrong.
The case is Austen v. Pearl Motor Yachts  EWHC 3544. It is not a personal injury case but it demonstrates how a case could collapse.
The claim involved a yacht that had collided with another yacht and sank. The Claimant brought a claim against Pearl Motor Yachts complaining that the yacht had not been built to specification and, as a result, the hull was too thin and sank where it should not had it been built correctly.
One of the witnesses had provided a witness statement which said that the hull had a 6 inch crack in the hull; much depended on this evidence. The witness statement was signed with a “Statement of Truth” – a formal declaration that the facts stated in that witness statement were true.
But on the day of the trial the witness gave his evidence and said that he had not, in fact, seen any 6 inch crack in the hull. His signed witness statement was untrue. The witness could not give any explanation as to how this untruth had got into his witness statement. We suppose he had not read it carefully.
The case was fortunate not to fail completely although the Claimant’s had no direct evidence on the size of the crack in the hull.
So what should we learn from this case?
It is very important that facts in any document – not just a witness statement – that is verified by a Statement of Truth are accurate.
To comply with court rules to which the statement may later be subject, your signature is confirmation that the facts stated are true. If, at a later stage, the court took the view that facts were stated without an honest belief in the truth of those facts, proceedings for contempt of court could be taken against the person who signed that document. If your case fails because of an untruthful statement there could be penalties.
Your solicitor will always make it clear that any document signed with a Statement of Truth is an important legal document.
You should always read the document carefully and if you need to make any changes you should tell your solicitor who will make those changes for you.
We hope this is clear but if you wish to discuss this article then please contact us.