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Mastering Witness Statements in Tribunal Proceedings: A Comprehensive Guide

View profile for Grace Kabasele
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Mastering Witness Statements in Tribunal Proceedings: A Comprehensive Guide

There are many steps to consider when bringing or defending a tribunal claim, including preparing witness statements.

What is a witness statement?

Both claimants and respondents will almost always have a witness to the relevant proceedings. This could be the claimant themselves but may also extend to workplace colleagues, and usually an HR professional and a management decision-maker on behalf of the respondent company. 

Tribunals tend to rely on documentary evidence as well as personal first-hand testimony. A statement without the individual carries very little weight because it cannot be cross-examined.

What should I include in a witness statement?

Witness statements are usually written chronologically and link the documents in the joint trial bundle, which both parties will have previously agreed upon. It is recommended that witness statements are written in the style of language that you would typically use, as this can make the evidence appear more natural and credible. Flowery or legal terms should be avoided.  

When commenting on a specific page or section of the bundle, it is usual practice for reference to be made in your statement. This allows the Tribunal and opposing side to easily understand your point and reference the evidence that proves (or disproves) this. 

The primary purpose of a witness statement is to explain your side of the story clearly and include what is relevant to your case. This should consist of how you felt about specific incidents. 

Parties should also ensure that everything included in their statement is truthful. If you cannot remember a date or how an incident occurred, your statement should reflect this. 

Who will read my witness statement? 

Before the final hearing and per the Tribunal's directions, parties are required to swap witness statements, which is usually done simultaneously for the benefit of both sides. Once this has been provided to the other party, the statement cannot be changed unless it's for a very good reason. If statements require an amendment, you will need to correspond with the Tribunal and the other party involved.

Witness statements will be read by the Tribunal and the opposing party, including their representatives and witnesses. This enables everyone to understand the other side's case and their arguments fully and minimises delay in the proceedings associated with lengthy verbal evidence giving.

How will a tribunal examine my witness statement?

Witnesses are usually cross-examined at the hearing on their statements, and the trial bundle is heavily referred to as part of the questioning. The other party will carry out cross-examination, and occasionally, the Tribunal will also cross-examine if they wish to clarify a point.  

This highlights the importance of statements being accurate and truthful. If there are discrepancies between your statement and the evidence you present at the hearing under questioning, this could affect your credibility and how the judge assesses your side of the case. 

To summarise

In summary, witness statements should:

  • Be truthful;
  • Provide your view on the events in question;
  • Refer to evidence which supports your point and;
  • Be provided by those who can assist the Tribunal in assessing the facts. 

Get in touch

For expert assistance with preparing your witness statement for Tribunal cases, contact our Employment Litigation team at 023 8063 9311 or email enquiries@warnergoodman.co.uk. Our experienced team is ready to offer tailored guidance and support.