The Current Covid-19 pandemic has caused a great deal of change to the way legal proceedings are conducted and has also prompted a number of amendments to both the Civil Procedure Rules and Family Procedure Rules. As such one non-Covid-19 related amendment to the Civil Procedure Rules which may therefore have escaped the attention of some is that in respect of the Statement of Truth required to verify statements of case and witness statements.
The previous form of words, being a phrase that can be recited at will by presumably all litigators, with effect from 6th April 2020 the required wording has now changed, or perhaps more accurately, has been added to.
Paragraph 2.1 of PD22 of the Civil Procedure Rules now provides that the form of the Statement of Truth verifying a statement of case, a response, an application notice or a notice of objection should be as follows:
“[I believe] [the (claimant or as may be) believes] that the facts stated in this [name of document being verified] are true. 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.”
Moreover, paragraph 2.2 of PD22 of the Civil Procedure Rules now requires that the form of the statement of truth verifying a witness statement should be as follows (and provided in the language of the witness statement):
“I believe that the facts stated in this witness statement are true. 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.”
Whilst seemingly only a minor amendment and perhaps a trivial additional requirement, the impact of failing to use the correct wording can be significant.
In the event that a statement of case is not verified by a Statement of Truth then pursuant to Rule 22.2(2) the court may strike it out. Moreover, under Rule 22.2(1), whilst the statement of case shall remain effective unless struck out, the party may not rely on it as evidence of any matters set out in it.
In respect of a witness statement, in the event that it is not verified by a Statement of Truth, then pursuant to Rule 22.3 of the Civil Procedure Rules the court may direct that it shall not be admissible as evidence.
As such every effort should be made to ensure that the correct wording is utilised in any Statement of Truth and thus any precedents previously utilised for any such document should of course be updated immediately and any newly prepared documents should be thoroughly reviewed to avoid any of the old form documents slipping through the net.
If errors are made and cannot be remedied by agreement then, particularly in so far as statements of case are concerned, at best an application may be required to amend the same, which will no doubt lead to additional costs and delay, and at worst, in the event that any applicable limitation date has expired before the error is noticed then it may jeopardise the entire claim. As such it may assist to review any statements of case, or indeed witness statements, drafted since April to ensure that all comply with the amended rules.