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How long is too long....

One of the many questions I get asked is how long should my witness statement be, how many pages? My answer, as long as it takes for you to set out your evidence in a clear and concise manner. Well you say that is not particularly helpful.

Your witness statement stands as your evidence in chief in your case, so it is an incredibly important document. It needs to set out the facts of your case, what you saw, heard and experienced. It is incredibly hard to be an observant bystander when emotionally involved in a case.

Our stories come out and flow into words on a statement. I am not trying to criticise you, it's just that opinion or hearsay, what you think or believe are your own story and perhaps the reality stands somewhere in the middle. That is why it helps to get someone with an objective view to help you with preparing your statement, generally friends and relatives are too emotionally involved too. Story can take too much space in a statement and your case and what you are trying to say can get lost.

So how long, well a less complex case, I can't say normal or average because there is no such case I would say 5 to 6 pages maximum. Every case is different and stands on it's own facts.

So when I say clear and concise, I also include relevance here. Let's have a look at an example of what I mean. Let's take an example of difficulties a father has collecting children to spend time with him. The father's version is that mother is a nightmare, she has a screw loose and never lets him have the children, her new boyfriend is on drugs and the children should not be left with him. The boyfriend needs money for drugs and he spends the money I pay on maintenance on drugs. I am not going to pay any more maintenance when the children don't get any benefit.

This is the father's perception of the situation, when the reality when getting down to facts is quite a different situation.

When the father went to collect the children for contact on Saturday 1 June at 10am, the mother and her new boyfriend came out of the house shouting at the father saying he could not have the children because he had not paid maintenance and unless he paid it there and then the children could not go with him. The father refused to pay maintenance there and then and the children did not go to spend time with the father. The children witnessed this and the father saw that they were visibly upset as they both bowed their heads and stared at their shoes in a defeated manner.

How do you write this in your statement, a father still very angry that this had happened along with many other difficulties he was experiencing. It is so easy to lay blame and attack the boyfriend and mother.

The reality was that the children had just got some new shoes and clothes, as they were growing fast and there was a forthcoming school trip that needed to be paid for. The boyfriend had lost his job and money was tight, so the mother was relying on the father's maintenance and was angry.

What happened was unacceptable, and how it is written in a statement is so very important, it is easy for you to see the facts here not being emotionally involved, but when you are angry and afraid, it is so compelling to get back at the other parent.

So how long is too long....depends on whether you keep to the facts and relevance and, if not then maybe it is going to be too long.

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