The courts have recently introduced changes to the way in which Statements of Truth are signed, which became effective on 6 April 2020. There have also been changes made to the process by which statements in foreign languages are prepared.
This article examines those changes and provides practical tips for consideration when faced with such matters.
What is a statement of truth?
Throughout the dispute resolution process, you will notice that courts require certain documents, such as a statement of case or a witness statement, to contain a Statement of Truth.
A Statement of Truth is essentially a statement in a document that asserts the contents in that document as being true and accurate.
The changes to the statement of truth
The Statement of Truth now requires the following wording, which is in addition to the previous requirement:
“I understand 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 purpose of this new wording is to highlight to parties and their lawyers the importance of candour in advancing a position which a Court will rely on in its determination of the dispute.
The Statement of Truth must also now be dated with the date on which it was signed.
Who needs to signs it?
The Statement of Truth in all documents must be verified by an individual.
Where the document is made on behalf of a corporate entity, the Statement of Truth must be verified by a senior company officer, such as a director or company secretary.
In limited circumstances, a third party individual can sign a Statement of Truth on behalf of someone else. For example, a solicitor can do so provided certain steps are followed. However, it is always preferable that the relevant individual themselves signs the Statement where possible.
In respect of a witness statement, the Statement of Truth must always be signed by the witness making the witness statement. A solicitor cannot sign it on their behalf.
Failure to sign
Failing to sign a Statement of Truth will cause unnecessary delays to your case. It will also put your case at risk of being struck out on an application by the other party, and not to mention expose you to further legal costs associated with defending such an application.
Consequences of dishonesty
The new form of the Statement of Truth makes it abundantly clear; criminal 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 honestly held belief in its truth.
This means even if you have had your solicitor, or an appropriate third party, sign a Statement of Truth on your behalf, you are still responsible for ensuring the truth of the document, and responsible for the consequences for failing to do so.
Accordingly, it is imperative that before signing (or instructing a solicitor or appropriate third party to sign on your behalf) a Statement of Truth, you understand the facts of the dispute well enough that you can honestly say you believe their veracity. If you cannot do so, then do not sign the Statement of Truth.
Statements by non-English speakers
The Statement of Truth must be written in the language of the person making the document.
Witness statements must also be written in the language of the person making the witness statement.
In order to properly file a witness statement in a language other than English, a translator must now be engaged in order to sign the original witness statement and then certify the translation is accurate.