Can I refuse to give a witness statement in a civil litigation case?

walktothewater

Registered User
Messages
17
I recently received correspondence from a firm of solicitors. Essentially, they are looking to get a witness statement from me regarding a civil case against a former banking senior employee.

My question is essentially twofold, ie:
- If I decline to co-operate, are there legal repercussions?

- If I agree to co-operate, what is in it for me?
 

Brendan Burgess

Founder
Messages
48,408
- If I agree to co-operate, what is in it for me?
Not sure that is the right question to be asking.

If someone saw you being mugged on the street and they knew the mugger, you would not be impressed if they refused to give evidence on the grounds that there was nothing in it for them.

The functioning of the justice system is important for all of us. So in purely selfish terms, the ongoing functioning of the justice system is in it for you.

Brendan
 

Jim2007

Registered User
Messages
2,336
I recently received correspondence from a firm of solicitors. Essentially, they are looking to get a witness statement from me regarding a civil case against a former banking senior employee.

My question is essentially twofold, ie:
- If I decline to co-operate, are there legal repercussions?

- If I agree to co-operate, what is in it for me?
Why should there be anything in it for you??? It's your duty as an ODC to help ensure our system of justice function properly. I would advise you to consult a solicitor before deciding anything because depending on the nature of the issue and the judge's opinion on the matter it may lead to a criminal investigation later.
 

ClubMan

Registered User
Messages
45,905
Going back to the original query and away from the moralising, it's my understanding that the invitation to give a witness statement is just that, an invitation. If you don't want to then just let them know that you decline and see what happens next. If you get a summons/subpoena to appear as a witness then that's another matter and you must go or face the consequences.

I am not a lawyer.
 

Clamball

Registered User
Messages
497
According to Citizens advice you can be compelled to be a witness in a criminal or civil case. So if you decline to Co-operate they can ask the judge in the case to compel you to give evidence before the court.

In a criminal case the gardai issue summons compelling you to attend court (my daughter has to give evidence next week in a very minor case but the gardai were very specific in saying once the summons was issued she had to attend).

I think what is in it for you is that once you are before a judge it is your duty to aid the court and give your evidence truthfully. I doubt you would even get expenses.
 

DirectDevil

Registered User
Messages
807
A few additional observations on a most interesting question.

The reason the solicitors want a statement is to assess what a witness's likely evidence will be.
Thereafter, they may need to interview the witness to assess their evidence and witness potential.
From that they work out if the evidence is going be helpful, harmful or of no evidentiary value.
If helpful they can serve the witness with a witness summons which compels attendance at court.

Being a compellable witness means that, if served with a witness summons, you must attend court.
Failure to do so is a refusal to comply with a court order.

If a witness has potential legal exposure of a criminal nature they can decline to answer a question on the grounds that to do so might tend to incriminate them. Even where a witness is giving evidence in a civil case some answers could be incriminating elsewhere.
If there is no potential criminal exposure an answer will be required.

One hazard in this type of situation is that of being declared a hostile witness.
A witness can be called to court by one side as being one of "their" witnesses. If that witness by their answers or non-responses appears to be antipathetic or even obstructive to the side that called them counsel may apply to the trial judge to have that witness declared a hostile witness.
This means that the side that called that witness may now cross-examine them.
Generally, you cannot cross-examine your own witnesses.

Another little gem lurks for the reluctant witness. If a person, not being a party to an action, has possession or control of information, documents or even objects of evidentiary relevance and importance such a person might be the subject of an order for discovery. This means that the person against whom discovery has been granted must yield up whatever they have in accordance with the terms of the discovery order.

BTW 1, a refusal to provide a statement to the solicitors does not have to be explained or justified.

BTW 2, witnesses are entitled to receive reimbursement of any expenses incurred directly in coming to court. The witness applies to the side that called them.
 

DirectDevil

Registered User
Messages
807
I recently received correspondence from a firm of solicitors. Essentially, they are looking to get a witness statement from me regarding a civil case against a former banking senior employee.

My question is essentially twofold, ie:
- If I decline to co-operate, are there legal repercussions?

- If I agree to co-operate, what is in it for me?

To answer your 2 specific questions.

1. Yes, there are potential repercussions as others have explained above and as I have just indicated.

2. What is in it for you is the knowledge that you have complied with any formal legal obligations that might be required of you.

I readily appreciate if you have any reluctance to become involved as being a witness can be a stressful and unpleasant experience.
If you have any worries that the defendant may try and improperly wind you in to something you should take your own legal advice now.

Hope this helps.
 
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