(This blog was co-written with Shaun Piesley, Paralegal)
If you are involved in litigation proceedings, it is very likely that you will be asked at some stage to sign a document that includes a statement stating that the facts contained within the document are true; this is referred to as a Statement of Truth. This article briefly addresses the points you need to be aware of when it comes to signing such a statement as there is no mistaking it, there may be huge consequences if the facts are later found not to be correct.
Whether you are a claimant, a defendant, a witness or an expert, the rules that govern the civil courts, referred to as the Civil Procedure Rules (“CPR”) require various documents to be verified by a Statement of Truth. These include Statements of Case, Disclosure Statement, Statement of Costs and Witness Statements. A Statement of Truth is usually in either of the following forms:
- I believe the facts stated in these Particulars of Claim are true (This wording is taken from Practice Direction 22, Paragraph 2.1); or
- I believe the facts stated in this Witness Statement are true (This wording is taken from Practice Direction 22, Paragraph 2.2).
A failure to sign or knowingly signing a Statement of Truth which you know contains false evidence, can negatively impact the success of your dispute. In addition, criminal proceedings may be brought against you or your company.
Who can sign a Statement of Truth?
A Statement of Truth must be signed by an individual regardless of whether the Claimant or the Defendant is a company. The only individuals who may sign for and on behalf of a company, are those holding a senior position such as a director or manager.
Certain circumstances will mean a solicitor will sign a Statement of Truth for and on behalf of their client. However, it is advised that the client should always sign where possible.
Failure to sign
The pitfalls of failing to sign a Statement of Truth means a document will remain effective unless struck out but the party may not rely upon the contents of the document until it has been verified by a signature (CPR 22.2). Therefore a failure to sign a Statement of Truth will not automatically lead to your case being struck out but it will likely cause unnecessary delay in the litigation process.
Failure to sign a Statement of Truth may leave you exposed to application notices from the other side seeking the court’s permission for the case to be struck out on the basis that a document has not been verified in accordance with the CPR. Not only is the decision of whether your case is struck out left to the discretion of the judge, you will likely incur further legal costs in order to defend such an application.
Consequences of a false statement
Signing a Statement of Truth or allowing a solicitor to sign where you know that a document contains a false statement may lead to you being contempt of court (CPR 32.14). Being contempt of court is punishable by way of a fine or a maximum penalty of two years in prison. It is therefore critical that the Statement of Truth you are signing not only contains the correct information but you fully appreciate the contents of the document you are signing.
An example of such a penalty can be found in the case of Lloyds TSB Insurance Services Ltd and Another v Shanley  EWHC 4603 (ch). In this case the High Court imposed a three month custodial sentence for civil contempt where a party fabricated a document to bolster a genuine case. This case highlights the seriousness for signing a Statement of Truth where you know it contains false information leaving yourself open to proceedings being brought against you for being in contempt of court, a matter not taken lightly.
Paris Smith LLP’s top tips
Before signing a Statement of Truth, you should consider the following:
- Have I read the contents of what I am signing?
- Can I verify what I have read as completely true?
- Rather than stating something to be the definitive truth you should state the reality of the situation e.g. amend your statement to state that you believe it probably happened and the reasons why you hold that belief.
- Do not assume that because your solicitor has drafted it that it is correct. It is your responsibility to check the facts contained in any document that you verify by your signature to a Statement of Truth.
- It remains your responsibility to check the facts are correct before giving authority to a solicitor to sign a Statement of Truth on your behalf.
- If you are unable to meet the above criteria, you should consider whether the relevant document should be amended accordingly.
If you require assistance or clarification before signing a Statement of Truth then contact a member of the dispute resolution team at Paris Smith LLP who will be able to assist you further.