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the Right to an Audience?

14 December 2010

In the recent case of K Mehta v Child Support Agency the EAT has provided guidance on reading witness statements aloud in employment tribunals, suggesting no value is added by the practice and that it wastes tribunal time.

An odd procedure, those more familiar with civil courts may think. But what exactly are the pros and cons of reading a witness statement aloud?

These will mainly depend on the quality of the statements. The more direct input the witness has into their statement the more natural it will sound when read aloud, enhancing credibility. Witnesses who have had no input into their statement will sound foreign and may incur the embarrassment of tripping over unfamiliar words.

Whether dispensing with the need to read a statement aloud will in practice have the desired effect of reducing tribunal time, and therefore reducing costs, remains to be seen. It could mean that representatives will simply spend more time asking supplemental questions and in cross examination.

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