What can I do to force someone to give a witness statement for me?

Judith Thompson

It can be very frustrating if somebody has evidence which is helpful or even vital to your case, and they refuse to give you a witness statement and refuse to come to court. This can apply whether you are a claimant or a defendant to a claim.

If you want to force someone to come to court, there is a very powerful mechanism you can use, which is called a witness summons.

Witness summonses are dealt with in Part 34 of the Civil Procedure Rules, the code which governs how civil (non criminal) cases are dealt with in court.

Under Part 34 of the CPR, the court has the power to order a witness to attend court to give evidence on a particular date. If you wish to force someone to go to court you have to make an application to the court asking the judge to make such an order.

A witness summons has to be served at least 7 days before the date when the witness is required to attend court and if they do not attend, they can be subject to severe sanctions, including criminal sanctions.

If you need to force a witness to come to court, it is important that the application is made in the correct form, and that it is supported by the correct evidence. If the court's formalities are not followed, it is possible that the application would be rejected.

Judith Thompson, litigation partner at Samuels Solicitors LLP says “in most cases, witnesses to events will be willing to provide a witness statement to help either the claimant or defendant and will then also be willing to go along to court to answer questions about their statement. If an important witness to an event refuses to provide a statement or go to court then a witness summons can be very useful. However, summons should be used with caution as there is no way to know exactly what the witness would say when they are in the witness box”.

This of course highlights the biggest problem with witness summonses - if you force someone to come to court, you may not know what they will say under cross-examination. If they are resentful towards you because you have forced them to be there, they may not say what you are expecting them to say.

However, it can help immensely if there are documents you can refer the witness to, which show what was happening at the time. In those circumstances, it would be more difficult for the witness to give evidence which contravenes the documentary evidence.

If someone is trying to force you to be a witness for them, and you think they have not used the right procedure, then it might be possible to resist them. Give us a call so we can talk it through with you.

If you require assistance to get somebody to court to give evidence to help your case, then contact us today to see how we can help.