The importance of being honest
In the recent case of Liverpool Victoria Insurance Company Ltd v Zafar (2019), the Court of Appeal issued a stark reminder about the importance of telling the truth in witness statements and expert reports. These documents are verified by a statement of truth. Where a party signing a statement of truth is rather more than economic with the truth, then he or she will be in contempt of Court and liable to a prison sentence.
In the Zafar case, the High Court had imposed a 6-month sentence suspended for two years on an expert who had made false statements in both an expert report and witness statements. However, the Court of Appeal held that 9 months imprisonment was the appropriate sentence and that this should have been served immediately as there were no good reasons for suspending the sentence. The Court of Appeal found amongst other things that one of the statements was dishonest as opposed to reckless and that the expert had tried to cover up his actions blaming another.
The expert was not required to serve the revised sentence because this was seen as being new guidance from the Court about contempt of Court by witnesses. It is now however clear from this new guidance that where a person giving evidence deliberately lies or is reckless as to whether or not a statement of truth is, in fact, true, the offence is so serious than only committal to prison will suffice.
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