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Published 17 March 2020
On the 6th April 2020 the 113th update to the Practice Directions (PD) within the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) comes into force. While such changes are often dismissed by many as technicalities that lawyers are paid to deal with, these changes could be viewed as a warning of even tougher action being taken by the judiciary on those who give false statements of truth. The update brings changes to the wording of statements in truth.
In a statement of case, the statement of truth must be in the following form.
‘[I believe][the (defendant 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.”.
In a witness statement, the statement of truth will have to be worded:
‘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.”.
The newly required words in the above statements of truth have been highlighted. In addition, and this is of application where the witness statement is in a foreign language, the rules now require that:
“The statement of truth must be in the witness’s own language.”
A further requirement is added where a legal representative signs the statement of truth on behalf of a party with PD 22 para 3.8(2) being changed to:
“that before signing he had explained to the client (through an interpreter where necessary) that in signing the statement of truth he would be confirming the client’s belief that the facts stated in the document were true”
It has always been the case that giving a false statement of truth could lead to contempt proceedings being brought against the person signing it, but this is now explicit and means that it will no longer be possible for anyone signing a statement of truth to claim that they were unaware of the consequences. The only way in which the wording could have been strengthened still further would have been by acknowledging that contempt can lead to imprisonment.
This added clarity in the statement of truth will give the judiciary the opportunity to ramp up its already tough approach to those dishonestly pursuing claims, something which would be welcomed by all practising in the counter-fraud arena.
This development will act as an incentive to insurers to pursue even harder the perpetrators of fraud be it through contempt proceedings or through the increasingly used route of private prosecutions which, although not mentioned in the new wording of the statement of truth, is an ever increasingly attractive option.
Those dishonestly bringing claims should take heed of this change and the spotlight that it places on the consequences of making a false statement of truth. More and more we see the courts punishing dishonest activity and our counter-fraud team regularly enjoys success in identifying fraudsters and bringing them before the courts. While fraud will never be completely eradicated, working in concert with our clients we strive to bring as many perpetrators to justice as possible and this rule change can only help in that process.
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