Under the rules of court, a number of court documents must incorporate a statement of truth. A statement of truth states that a party believes the facts stated in a document to be true and accurate. It should be signed either by the party or, in the case of a witness statement, by the maker of the statement.
Failure to provide a statement of truth can lead to court documents - for example, a statement of case setting out a party's position - being struck out and evidence being disregarded.
Who must sign?
Where a document needs to be verified by a company, the statement of truth must be signed by a senior corporate officer. This could be a director, treasurer, secretary, chief executive, manager or other authorised officer.
For non-registered corporations or local authorities the mayor, chairman, president, town clerk or similar officer of the corporation can sign.
A statement of truth can be signed on behalf of another person. For example, a solicitor can sign a statement of truth on behalf of a client. It is advisable however to obtain written confirmation from that person of the following that:
- they have read through the document and any attachments carefully.
- the facts contained in the document are true.
- you are expressly authorised to sign on their behalf.
- they have been advised of the consequences of making a false statement
A statement of truth contained in a witness statement can only be signed by the person giving the witness statement.
False statements of truth
Proceedings for contempt of court may be brought against a person if he makes, or causes to be made, a false statement in a document verified by a statement of truth without an honest belief in its truth. The provisions relating to statements of truth are intended to make parties to a dispute and their lawyers think very carefully before advancing cases or evidence that they do not honesty believe in.
A senior person in an organisation who signs a statement of truth, must be sufficiently aware of the facts to positively advance an honest belief. It will not be a defence to say that the senior person had no reason to believe that the statement was false.
If a solicitor signs a statement of truth on behalf of his client and it transpires that the client did not have an honest belief in the truth of the facts contained in a document, the client may face contempt of court proceedings.