Case of the month – R N Restaurant (Stockport) Ltd, Re [2024] EWHC 69 (Ch)

R N Restaurant (Stockport) Ltd, Re [2024] EWHC 69 (Ch) – The importance of ensuring witness evidence is consistent throughout a case.

In this case, the Judge pointed out that the evidence being given at the hearing was factually different to the pleaded case (the case in the Particulars of Claim/Defence/Counterclaim etc), and earlier witness statements. The Judge was also doubtful that the witnesses could recall specific events and conversations.

It is very important for a witness in proceedings to be consistent. If they are a poor historian and their oral evidence conflicts with their written evidence and/or the pleaded case, then it is likely that a trial Judge will find that they are an unreliable witness and/or not a credible one.

A striking feature of the evidence in this case was that when on the first day of the hearing this witness was asked careful and fair questions, the evidence was significantly different from the pleaded case and the evidence she had given in her witness statements.

In cross-examination on the second day of the hearing, the witness reverted, to a significant extent, to her previous evidence. The Judge held that this was either because the witness had re-read witness statements overnight and realised the need to emphasise in evidence the points which had not previously been raised or, more likely because the witness had discussed evidence with others overnight despite being warned not to do so. The Judge held that even if he was wrong about that, in the Judge’s view the conflict between what was pleaded and the oral evidence, meant that the evidence must be treated with real caution.

It should therefore be a note of caution to social housing practitioners, housing officers and others drafting their own statements, and statements of victims or complainants to ensure that the statements are accurate. Where translation is required then it is also important to ensure this is correct for the same reasons. Those persons signing the witness statement should be reminded of this, and the consequences of any inconsistencies, not only being the potential of losing the case, but also a risk of being held in contempt of court for verifying a statement of truth, if there was not an honest belief in what has been said.

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