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Witness statements and expert witnesses in legal proceedings

Witness statements

Witness statements and expert witnesses in legal proceedings

In legal proceedings, a witness plays a crucial role by providing evidence either in person or in writing. We delve into the significance of witness statements, especially focusing on expert witnesses and the proper preparation of statements for hearings.


Expert witnesses

Expert witnesses bring specialised knowledge to legal cases, derived from their training, study, or experience. Courts may rely on their evidence to make informed decisions on technical or specialised matters related to a case. Importantly, an expert witness owes their primary duty to the Court, emphasising impartiality over advocacy for the party employing their services.


Best practices for expert witnesses

For their testimony to be effective, an expert’s opinion should be sound, complete, fair, unbiased, and within the scope of their expertise. At a hearing, both parties and the judge presiding over the case may question the expert witness. Additionally, expert witnesses often provide reports, with the expectation that they will attend the hearing to discuss and defend their findings.


Challenges when a witness can’t attend in person

When a witness is unable to attend a hearing in person, alternative arrangements can be made, such as attending by telephone or video conference or submitting written evidence in an affidavit or statutory declaration. However, courts typically prefer witness testimony in person, as it allows for cross-examination and ensures the integrity of the evidence presented.


Understanding witness statements: a crucial element

A witness statement is a document outlining the evidence a witness plans to present at a hearing. It involves a sworn or affirmed confirmation of the statement’s truth and correctness by the witness. Typically, the requirement to prepare a witness statement is issued by the court, often following a directions hearing.


How to prepare an effective witness statement

When preparing a witness statement, certain guidelines must be followed. The statement should begin with the witness’s name, address, and occupation. Subsequently, the evidence must be presented in numbered paragraphs in chronological order. The witness must sign and date the document, ensuring its validity.


Sharing witness statements and attachments

Before a hearing, it is mandatory to send a copy of the witness statement to the court and the opposing party. If the witness references documents in the statement, these must be attached as exhibits. This ensures transparency and allows all parties to scrutinize the evidence.


Summonsing witnesses or evidence: a legal tool

A summons is a legal document compelling someone to produce evidence or appear at court on a specified date. Attempting to summon a person without relevant evidence or for improper purposes may result in the summons being set aside, with potential cost implications.

Understanding the nuances of witness statements and the role of expert witnesses is pivotal in navigating legal proceedings. Proper preparation, adherence to guidelines, and ethical considerations contribute to the effectiveness of witness statements, ensuring a fair and comprehensive presentation of evidence in legal cases.


Need assistance with your commercial matter and the drafting of you witness statement? Contact us on 03 8590 8390 for a 20 minute free consultation with one of our experienced Melbourne lawyers.

This update does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. It is intended only to provide a summary and general overview on matters of interest and it is not intended to be comprehensive. You should seek legal or other professional advice before acting or relying on any of the content.

Last updated: 13 December 2023 Article by: Halil Gokler

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