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Research reveals legal practitioners receive limited or no professional training on preparing witness statements

The report highlights the pressing need to have mandatory training for legal practitioners as well as detailed guidance for individuals who are self-representing in court.

A gavel in a courtroom

The Institute for Crime & Justice Policy Research (ICPR) at Birkbeck has published a new report, ‘Witness Statements for the Employment Tribunal in England and Wales: What Are The Issues?’ , that explores best practice for preparing witness statements for Employment Tribunals in England and Wales.

The report, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, found limited guidance and almost no evidence of training for legal practitioners on how best to prepare a witness statement, leading to a variability in quality of such statements. Additionally, for litigants in person (those self-representing in court) there were differing levels of support as well as a shortage of online resources and guidance publicly available.

The researchers recommend an in-depth review of witness statement training is undertaken as well as a wider review of legal practitioners’ training needs in relation to witness statements.  Furthermore, they advise improving online resources and updating the guidance issued by the President of Employment Tribunals, to reflect the study’s findings and psychological research which informs current best practice on interviewing witnesses.

Co-author, Dr Penny Cooper, said: “Witness statements have a direct bearing on the outcome of cases, litigation costs and the efficiency of hearings. At a time when the Business and Property Courts are introducing new rules and judges are voicing concerns about the quality of witness statements, our study shows how training and guidance needs to be informed by research from the field of psychology.”

Dr Michelle Mattison added: “Producing witness statements which contain complete and accurate evidence, and which comply with legal rules and directions, is a complex task. In order to enhance access to justice and improve the quality of witness evidence in courts and tribunals there is a pressing need for better guidance and mandatory training.”

The Nuffield Foundation is an independent charitable trust with a mission to advance social well-being. It funds research that informs social policy, primarily in Education, Welfare, and Justice. It also funds student programmes that provide opportunities for young people to develop skills in quantitative and scientific methods. The Nuffield Foundation is the founder and co-funder of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics and the Ada Lovelace Institute. The Foundation has funded this project, but the views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily the Foundation. Visit the Nuffield Foundation online.

The Nuffield Foundation is an independent charitable trust with a mission to advance social well-being. It funds research that informs social policy, primarily in Education, Welfare, and Justice. It also funds student programmes that provide opportunities for young people to develop skills in quantitative and scientific methods. The Nuffield Foundation is the founder and co-funder of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics and the Ada Lovelace Institute. The Foundation has funded this project, but the views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily the Foundation. Visit www.nuffieldfoundation.org

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