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Evidence in civil cases

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Evidence is vital in every case

It can be in the form of documents or other materials but in the vast majority of civil cases, even where documents appear clear, oral evidence is still important as there may be arguments that whatever was documented was varied by conversations or subsequent actions.

As regards documentary evidence, you should of course consider this right at the outset. In doing so, you should be mindful that your opponent may also have documents that don’t support your case or even perhaps do support your case but which you don’t have. Disclosure of documents is often a key stage of a dispute and this topic is dealt with on our disclosure of documents page.

  • It is important also to appreciate that the way in which evidence is obtained is also important. If it is obtained by deception or in a way which may give rise to doubts about it’s authenticity, thus can create problems, and evidence which is potentially improperly obtained may or may not be admissible and if a Judge does allow it :-
  • It may not be given the same importance (weight) as it might have
  • If, for example, it was obtained in breach of an opponent’s privacy rights, you could find that you face civil and/or criminal law implications separate from the current dispute.
  • You might be penalised in costs

Evidence – stick to the facts
It can all be too tempting, in a witness statement, to try and cover every point or argument that you anticipate your opponent might argue at court but this is a mistake. A carefully thought out and drafted statement is very important and should only focus on :-

  • Facts in dispute;
  • Facts which impact the credibility and/or competence of a witness (although care should be taken in this area.

If you are the claimant, your evidence needs to also deal with not just liability but loss – don’t expect the court to just accept your word on this – you will need to prove it with documents and your evidence and loss is just as complicated if not more than legal liability.

Note that, except where expert evidence is needed, the focus is on facts and not opinions. Filling a witness statement with opinions is the wrong approach, and may be counterproductive on many levels.

If you have any questions or concerns about evidence, either at the beginning of a dispute or at any stage, get in touch with our litigation team.

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