1. An investigator may take a statement from a witness in the course of an investigation (see Collecting Witness Evidence). The evidence that the statement contains can affect a number of important decisions connected with the investigation, for example whether:
2. If there is a prosecution that leads to a trial, the witness may be called to give oral evidence. However there are procedures whereby the contents of a witness statement may be used as evidence in criminal proceedings without the witness being required to attend court.
3. To do this:
4. The use of this procedure saves time and facilitates the progress of the prosecution but, as it does not allow the witness to be cross-examined, it is unlikely to be appropriate where the content of the statement is contentious or the evidence is central to the prosecution’s case.
5. The procedure is particularly suitable for the admission of certain types of factual evidence that are not in dispute, for example:
6. The procedure may also be used if it is likely to be difficult to bring a witness to court.
7. To be accepted in evidence in summary proceedings, a written statement must:
8. Statements taken on the forms provided 3 comply with these requirements.
9. If a witness cannot read the statement, it must be read to the witness before it is signed. The person who reads the statement to the witness must sign a declaration that this has been done.
10. If a statement refers to another document as an exhibit, that document must either be copied to all the parties, or they must be given sufficient information to enable them to inspect it. 4
11. Expert evidence may be given by way of a written report, 5 whether or not the expert also gives oral evidence. The report should either be provided in the form of a statement that complies with s.9 CJA 1967 (i.e. on form LP70) or be exhibited to such a statement. In certain circumstances, the court may give leave for the report to be admitted in evidence without the expert being called. 6
12. Before serving any statement under section 9 CJA 1967 or section 5B MCA 1980, you should ensure that the statement covers all matters on which the witness will be required to give evidence.
13. The witness’s address should not be given. You should not serve the form containing the witness’s personal details on the defence, as these are confidential and may place the witness at risk of intimidation.
14. The statement must be served on each party to the proceedings. Where the statement is served under section 9 CJA 1967, it must be accompanied by a form LP17 which states that, if the defence requires the witness to be present, the prosecution must be informed before the hearing. If there are several defendants, all must be separately served with the statement.
15. A defendant has the right to object to a statement being admitted as evidence under section 9 CJA 1967 by written notice within 7 days of service. If a statement is served under s.5B MCA 1980 in the course of committal proceedings, the statement may normally be read as evidence at trial. Even if the defence objects, the court has discretion to overrule an objection in the interests of justice.
16. If an objection is received out of time to the use of a statement under section 9 CJA 1967, you should try to ensure that the witness attends, otherwise the court may decide to adjourn the matter to allow the witness to attend.
17. In the absence of objection, you can normally rely on the written statement, which is then read in full to the court (or summarised if the court allows). However, the court may itself require a witness to attend and give evidence, even if the defence has accepted the statement.
18. The requirements of section 9 CJA 1967 and section 5B MCA are not mandatory if all parties agree to the statements being admitted as evidence.
19. All statements and exhibits served on the defendant should be copied to the court as soon as practicable. 7 Additionally, it is good practice to copy the accompanying form to the court as evidence that the defendant was advised of the right to object to the statement(s) being tendered in evidence. You should ask the court office to confirm the number of copies of statements and exhibits which the court will require.
20. If the defendant either agrees to the statement being used in evidence or does not reply, but at the trial tenders evidence that conflicts with the statement, you should draw the court’s attention to the discrepancies between the evidence given and the contents of the statement.
21. You should show that the appropriate forms have been served and request that, in view of the conflict in evidence, the case should be adjourned so that the witness may attend. 8
22. It may be necessary for witness statements to be edited before being tendered in evidence, for example:
23. A statement can be edited by marking a copy or obtaining a fresh statement. 9
24. A copy of the statement may be marked in a way which indicates the parts on which you will not rely: this can be done either by lightly striking out the passages to be edited or by bracketing, or a combination of both, so long as the material that is not to be relied upon is NOT obliterated. The original signed statement to be tendered to the court should not be marked in any way. Similarly documents exhibited in committal proceedings should remain in their original state.
25. A fresh statement, signed by the witness, may be obtained which omits the offending material. This would be appropriate, particularly if the statement is to be tendered under s 9 CJA 1967, where, for example:
26. Defence statements may also be served under s.9 CJA 1967. You are under no obligation to accept them in evidence, but you may do so if you are satisfied that you need not cross-examine the defence witness.
27. If you wish to object to the statement, you should notify the defence by registered post or recorded delivery within 7 days of the statement being served on you.
28. Section 34 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 Act inserts a new s.6C into the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996, requiring the defence to give the prosecutor and the court advance details of any witnesses they intend to call at trial. They are not required to provide a copy of the statement of the witness (expert witnesses are covered by separate provisions).
29. A potential issue arises as to when the defence form the intention to call a witness which may sometimes be late in the trial process. However the courts are likely to interpret the obligation to notify the prosecution as arising when the defence "intend or may intend to call" a witness.11
30. The witness disclosure requirements are mandatory in both the Crown Court and the magistrates' court and apply to any case in which the defendant pleads not guilty in the Magistrates Court on or after 1 May 2010 or any case which is committed/sent to the Crown Court on or after that date. The defendant should comply within 14 days of initial prosecution disclosure.12
31. The Secretary of State has issued a Code of Practice to govern the arranging and conduct of interviews of defence witnesses disclosed under the new requirement by persons charged with the duty of investigating offences.13
32. The witness has to consent to being interviewed and can have a solicitor present. The interview should be recorded.
33. There is no requirement for the defence to supply any statement from the witness to the prosecutor before the interview. The prosecutor may therefore be unlikely to know what evidence the witness may give. In deciding whether to seek to interview any witness the investigator should take into account all the circumstances of the case. If you are already aware of what the witness is likely to say (you may have spoken to them at an earlier stage of the investigation) you may consider that interviewing them now is unlikely to be of benefit. On the other hand if you are unaware of the nature of the witnesses’ evidence an interview could be helpful to the prosecution. If you require advice then please contact your Legal Liaison Point.