There are many circumstances where you need to get your story down in writing for legal purposes. These can include making statements to police, governments and authorities or preparing for court. Broadly speaking, statements for legal purposes are called “statements of evidence”. Some times these are made by way of Declaration and some times by way of Affidavit. The formal requirements for Statements of Evidence can be different depending on the purpose. These guidelines give a broad overview of how a Statement of Evidence can be written.
Depending on the purpose of your statement there will be specific evidence you must include in your statement. You can get help in working out what that specific evidence is by checking information available on line for example, at www.communitylaw.org.nz or www.cab.org.nz or by having an initial consultation with a lawyer.
The Golden Rule
Give yourself enough time and put the effort into getting it right.
Statements of evidence, even for lawyers, take many drafts. You need to spend time in making them as clear as possible because the clearer and more concise your statement is, the more persuasive it will be.
Computer drafts are the best way to go because it is easier to make changes. If you do not have a computer, you should try and get a friend or family member to help you. Also, many community service centres allow you to book or use computers.
Courts have their own special form for Statements of Evidence but essentially the format is generally the same and is quite logical. Numbering your paragraphs can make a Statement of Evidence easier to refer to when talking about it. By numbering paragraphs you can say, “at Paragraph 21, I talk about the second incident”, for example.
This sets out who you are, where you live and what you do. It should also set out your relationship to other parties that you refer to in your evidence and needs to state your qualifications if you think that is relevant.
I, Joseph Bloggs, of (street address) Town, New Zealand, employment title, make oath/affirm and say as follows:
This sets out the facts and evidence you rely on. Try to set out your Statement of Evidence in chronological (date order from first event to last event) form.
1. I am the applicant/respondent in these proceedings. (ie why are you involved in the proceedings)
2. On x I was telephoned by, the applicant/respondent to these proceedings, asking me to provide a quote for services.
3. On y I provided a quote for my services.
4. On z the applicant/respondent contacted me and ask me to do the work in my quote.
It makes sense to set your Statement of Evidence under sub-headings. Keep those facts in chronological order under each sub-heading.
What should a statement of evidence contain?
A statement of evidence should set out direct observations of matters or statements you believe to be true.
“K approached me waving a fist in my face and K was very red in the face and shouting. There was nobody else around. I felt afraid."
This is acceptable because it records direct observations. It could be used to persuade the Decision Maker that the person’s actions were “threatening” – notice the word ‘threatening’ is NOT used because that is an opinion (see below)!
What Shouldn’t A Statement of Evidence Contain?
Statements of Evidence should not contain opinions.
“K approached me in a threatening way”.
This is an opinion. The meaning of the word “threatening“ is not clear and may mean different things to different people.
Statements of Evidence should not draw conclusions based on observation.
"these actions showed that he wasn’t ever going to pay for the work done”
Statements of Evidence should not summarize in a general way things that have happened.
“Z was always evading me.”
This summarizes actions rather than describes direct observations.
A better way to say the above would be:
“On x I approached y for payment. He said, “I will pay you next week”. And repeat for each incident.
Statements of Evidence should not contain hearsay. Hearsay is what another person told you, you did not see it yourself.
“Peter said to me “I saw Paul leaving the building site yesterday with a stack of gear in his truck”.
The reason Hearsay is not usually acceptable is because the person who made the statement is not present to be tested as to the truth of that statement.
In the example above, the statement of what Peter said is not evidence of Paul leaving the site with gear in his truck, it is just evidence of Peter saying it. If Peter saw something important that can help your position, you should ask Peter if he will sign his pwn statement.
There are exceptions to hearsay. A lawyer can assist you with your statement if you feel you need to include hearsay and do not know if you can.
The value of Independent and Documentary Evidence
Most Statements of Evidence will have attachments. Attachments may include documents such as extracts of emails, text messages, letters, invoices, quotes, proof of receipts and expenditure, telephone accounts that show the numbers called. Basically anything that helps to prove what you are saying is true. Documents are often called “best evidence” because if shown to be genuine, they are very persuasive.
If you want friends/colleagues to write Statements of Evidence, you will probably have to draft something for them too, so don’t forget that when you are planning your time to write Statements of Evidence.
If you would like to have your evidence and statement reviewed by a lawyer don’t hesitate to contact us. We are happy to provide assistance by either reviewing your documents online/by email or by sitting down with you one on one to talk you through it.
Note from the Author
I get plenty of time to think about legal matters while I am on the road.
This blog shares those thoughts and also answers some of the many questions people ask me. Hopefully there is something of interest to you. If there is a subject you would like covered then let me know!
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