03 Jan How writing your own statements can jeopardise your case.
Representing yourself at court?
Is it wise to draft your own statement?
Since legal aid has been limitedly available since 2013, many people are representing themselves at court.
The only benefit for people representing themselves is that they save on legal fees. There are many potential pitfalls for people representing themselves, one of which is drafting their own statements.
Most people associate attending court as speaking in court. Of course, putting forward your case verbally is important but the value of putting forward your position in a well written statement is invaluable also. A statement is the evidence you rely on and that you are presenting to the court. You may be questioned on this at a contested hearing. Whilst being questioned, if you mention something that you didn’t mention in your statement, this can hinder your case. A well drafted statement is your opportunity to start to persuade the court regarding your position; before you even attend the hearing. The Judge/Magistrates would’ve considered your statement prior to any hearing. Contrarily, your statement can hinder your case also, if not written well or if you miss out important details about your position. How will you know what is relevant to include and what’s not?.
Words are powerful and you can use them in your favour or you can mistaking “throw yourself under the bus” simply by using the wrong choice of words.
In court proceedings there is always a lot of focus on the spoken word, but it should never be underestimated how important the written word is. Statements are an important part of the overall evidence presented to the court. The evidence you’ll be relying on, so you’ll want it to be right.
If you choose to represent yourself then we recommend you speak to a Solicitor to get your statement drafted for you. Most Solicitors will do this on a fixed fee basis. A lot of people appear to think that it’s all or nothing with regard to legal representation. That’s not true at all, you can instruct a Solicitor to do isolated pieces of work for you i.e. advice, case preparation (including drafting statements) and attending ad hoc hearings etc. You would then continue to represent yourself throughout your case but supported as little or as much as you wish by a legal representative. This saves costs, but you will have had the benefit of being supported by a legal representative with your case preparation. Preparation is everything and you only get once chance to get it right.