Witness Statements in a Foreign Language - The Correct Procedure

Witness Statements in a Foreign Language - The Correct Procedure

What should you do if a witness cannot speak English and you require a witness statement from them? 

In April 2020, changes were made to practice directions 22 and 32, which introduced new rules concerning statements of truth and witness statements given by a witness who speaks a foreign language.

In brief, Practice Direction 22 introduced new wording for statements of truth to confirm that the statement's author is aware that contempt of court proceedings may be brought if they make a statement without an honest belief in its truth.

Practice direction 32 now provides greater certainty on how witness statements given by foreign language speakers must be prepared and put before the court. 

Practice Direction 22

Practice Direction 22 now requires additional language to be included for statements of truth, highlighted in bold below:

"[I believe][the (claimant or as may be) believes] that the facts stated in this [name 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"

The form of the statement of truth verifying a witness statement will contain the same wording in bold above, after the words: "I believe that the facts stated in this witness statement are true".

The rules also require that statements of truth verifying a foreign language witness statement should be "provided in the language of the witness statement". 

The rules also stipulate that:

  1. a statement of truth will need to be written in the witness's own language and be "dated with the date on which it was signed"
  2. when a lawyer signs a client's statement of truth, this signature will be taken by the court to mean that the legal representative has explained to the client "through an interpreter where necessary" that, in signing the statement of truth, the legal representative is confirming the client's belief that the facts stated in the document are true.

Practice Direction 32

Changes were also made to the requirements for evidence from a witness who speaks a foreign language. In short, the rules stipulate that:

  1. Witness statements must be drafted in the witness's own words AND their own language;
  2. Witness statements must provide details of the process by which it has been prepared (i.e. by telephone or in a face-to-face setting) and detail whether or not an interpreter was used;
  3. The party wishing to rely upon the statement must have the statement translated into English;
  4. Both the foreign language statement and its English counterpart must be filed in court;
  5. The translator must sign the translation to confirm its accuracy;
  6. The statement must contain the date in the top right-hand corner.

What do the rules mean in practice?

The changes to Practice Direction 22 enhance the requirements for witness statements and ensure that the court can be certain of their accuracy and validity.

This protection is further enhanced by having individuals acknowledge that they may be subject to contempt of court proceedings. While contempt of court proceedings could always be brought for false statements, this is now expressly communicated.

Do you need to draft a foreign language witness statement?

IMD Translation Ltd was established by solicitors for solicitors. If you have a legal document or evidence required for use in court that requires translation, such as a witness statement, we are here for you. Get in touch and speak with us now. Because in legal matters, language matters.