Inspectors as witnesses

Most civil cases are settled out of court - sometimes on the day of the hearing. Inspectors are often cited as witnesses only to have the citation cancelled at short notice or to be sent home from the court without having to give evidence. Nevertheless, you should remember that witness citations in civil cases carry the same legal force as citations in criminal cases and must be complied with. You should not appear in a civil case unless you have received a citation requiring you to attend. Citations are normally sent by recorded delivery; on receipt of a citation requiring attendance as a witness you should write to the firm of solicitors involved to advise them that you will be prepared to attend court as requested, but that the Health and Safety Executive will expect to be reimbursed with salary, travelling and subsistence expenses in accordance with current HSE instructions. You should advise Shepherd & Wedderburn and fax to them a copy of the citation received. They can often arrange for the citation to be cancelled or make precise arrangements for your attendance at Court thus minimising the official time involved.

It is not appropriate for Inspectors to accept instructions to act as expert witnesses in civil cases and you cannot be required to act for a party as an expert. If asked you should simply decline. If you are cited to appear then you should contact Shepherd & Wedderburn. However, there may be occasions when the presiding judge or sheriff asks for your opinion, in these circumstances you should give it.

You should not normally take documents into court, except in the unusual case where you may have been cited to do so. It is preferable for all your factual evidence to be included in a statement or report, previously recovered by one of the parties to the action which may be a court production, and used if so to refresh your memory. More usually you will simply be asked questions without reference to any documentation. If you choose to take your notebook into court, but choose not to use it, no one can ask about it. However, if you choose to refer to the notebook, then the parties in court can ask to see it, and are free to examine any part of the notebook, not just the part to which you referred.

If a citation is sent to the office for an ex-inspector, the citation, if possible, should not be accepted. In most cases however, the normal mail receipt arrangements mean that such citations will be accepted by HSE. In such circumstances, the appropriate band 2 inspector should ensure that the citation is forwarded to the last known address of the ex-inspector, and a simple record kept that this has been done. If you receive a request for the address of an ex-inspector, this should not be divulged. Ex-inspectors who receive citations can be allowed to read relevant documents in the office, and can be allowed to make copies of documents to which they may have to speak in court, such as their own statements or reports.

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Updated 2009-02-06