Witness evidence reforms now apply in the Admiralty Court

Insights / / London

Following much discussion, the witness evidence reforms have now made their way to the Admiralty Court. The provisions now apply to trial witness statements signed on or after 1 October 2021 in Admiralty Court proceedings and constitute a further reminder that a witness statement must be exactly that – a statement in the words of the witness.

As we reported back in February 2021, Practice Direction 57AC aims to obtain a more uninhibited account of facts from witnesses and reveal the extent of third party input into the witness statement. You can read our full comments on the reforms at the below link:

Whilst PD 57AC came into effect from 1 April 2021 in the Business and Property Courts, there were certain carve-outs including Admiralty Court proceedings. However, as anticipated, PD 57AC now applies to proceedings within the Admiralty Court, whenever commenced, and to trial witness statements signed on or after 1 October 2021.

PD 57AC makes a number of changes to the form of trial witness statements, including that:

  • A witness statement must now identify documents that the witness has referred to or been referred to;
  • Witnesses must clarify how well they remember important facts;
  • A Confirmation of Compliance must be signed by the witness; and
  • A Certification of Compliance must be signed by the relevant legal representative.

Parties who have cases in the Admiralty Court should be aware of the new requirements which will need to be considered carefully when witness statements are likely to be required in commercial litigation. In particular, parties should:

  • collect witness evidence as soon as possible and keep a record of the documents reviewed;
  • instruct lawyers who are familiar with the new rules and how they impact court proceedings; and
  • Ensure that witnesses (and anyone involved in the preparation of statements) are aware of what the courts require from a witness. In particular, the need for trial witness statements:
    • to be drafted in the witness's own words and to only set out personal knowledge and experience;
    • to avoid legal jargon or “polishing” from legal teams; and
    • to avoid attempting to argue a case or refer extensively to, or quote from, other documents.

As we highlighted in our original article, these amendments have implications for those giving and taking witness evidence and potentially carry the risk of sanctions, including a strikeout of the witness evidence and costs penalties, should they not be adhered to.

Christian Dwyer

Christian Dwyer Global Head of Admiralty

Martin Dalby

Martin Dalby Partner

Sophie Forsyth

Sophie Forsyth Associate

Related sectors:

Quick links

The Legal 500 2021

“Very available and responsive to company developments in real time. Frank, clear advice – not just the ‘easy’ answer.”

The Legal 500 2022

“The solicitors who have handled our employment related issues are of the highest quality in terms of their specialist area of expertise, their professionalism and their approach to us as clients and as people. Special mention has to be made of Laura Livingstone. Laura became a key member of our team and felt more like a colleague than an external adviser – a colleague you could rely upon. Laura’s attention to detail, professionalism and responsiveness was second to none. Laura has come to know and understand us as individuals and this has enabled her to personalise her advice and even sometimes to preempt our future requirements. We have a very special and extremely valuable relationship with her and the firm.”

- The Legal 500

The Legal 500 2022

“Ince are an excellent “fit” with our specific needs. The firm has consistently provided a broad range of personnel-related advice and in our experience that advice has been consistently of the very highest professional standard: it has been timely, comprehensive, accurate and at a cost which is commensurate with the budget of an organisation of our size.”

- The Legal 500

The Legal 500 2022

“The firm has an unusually high degree of insight into the practices and policies required by the Gambling Commission as regards compliance with its own requirements and conditions – particularly Andrew Tait, derived from his previous in-house experience.”

- The Legal 500