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Defective Witness Statement for Non-English Language Speaking Claimant Was Ruled Inadmissible Leading to Dismissal of His Claim - Grace Corby, Temple Garden Chambers

15/12/22. Correia v Williams [2022] EWHC 2824 - The judgment set out the approach to be adopted in relation to the admission of witness statements for witnesses who do not speak English, which have not complied with the requirements of the Civil Procedure Rules.

The Background

The Appellant (and Claimant) was a Portuguese national, who sought damages for serious personal injuries he sustained in a road traffic accident on 26 February 2017. In this accident, the Appellant’s motorcycle and Respondent’s car had come into collision at a junction controlled by traffic lights. The critical question for liability was which party had driven through a red light.

The matter was listed for trial on 24 January 2022 with a two-day time estimate. The Appellant’s witness statement was dated 15 December 2021 and was in English. He had been assisted in making the statement by a Portuguese speaking solicitor. The Appellant’s witness statement said at paragraph 10:

"Whilst I can understand and speak English I am not wholly fluent and rely on the assistance of a translator during court proceedings. I am able to make this statement in English because the principal solicitor of Harris da Silva solicitors speaks fluent Portuguese."

The statement ended with a statement of truth in English and was accompanied by a certificate of translation which read:

"I, Charles da Silva, hereby certify that I am proficient in Portuguese and English. I translated the foregoing statement and read it back to Jose Carlos Marquez Correia in its entirety in Portuguese (European) on 15 December 2021."

The statement of truth was signed by the Appellant himself and the certificate of translation by Mr da Silva. At trial, the Appellant had a translator present for the purposes of giving live evidence.

At first instance, the HHJ Gerald (“the Judge”) ruled that the statement was inadmissible as a witness statement. The Judge referred to the “very good reasons” for not admitting the statement. He cited the importance of all parties being able to rely on witness statements as the evidence that the statement maker wants to give. For cross examination, it was critical that the witness was tied down to one version of events and then cross-examined on the basis of it.

The Appellant’s counsel sought several routes around the inadmissibility of the witness statement, proposing that the Appellant give...

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