Providers of evidence in court proceedings must have an honest belief in the truth of what they say and can face contempt of court proceedings for giving evidence without such a belief.

This position was reaffirmed by the Court of Appeal in KJM Superbikes Ltd v Hinton, in which the defendant gave evidence in a witness statement which was untrue. The defendant admitted giving untrue evidence, but contended that he had not intended to mislead the court but to protect one of the party's reputation. He accepted that his evidence may have had a bearing on the outcome of the case and so, if proved, the contempt could have been serious.

The judge at first instance refused permission to bring proceedings for contempt of court on the basis that such proceedings would be unlikely to result in a significant penalty or affect the future administration of justice. The claimant appealed.

Allowing the appeal, the Court of Appeal held that allowing contempt of court proceedings in this case would be likely to have a salutary effect in bringing home to those who were involved in claims, the importance of honesty in making witness statements and the significance of the statement of truth. This had been a serious contempt and proceedings such as this were necessary to promote the integrity of the legal process in the future.

Things to consider

Anyone asked to sign a statement of truth must not do so without an honest belief as to the accuracy of its contents. All due enquiry must be undertaken so that the maker of the statement can have confidence in what is being signed. The consequences of failing to do so can be serious for the individual concerned.