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Unsure of your equality rights or the law? We can provide advice and assistance for people who feel they have been discriminated against.

Witnesses to support my claim


What you need to know

Can I ask people to be a witness to support my claim of discrimination?

Yes, you can.  The witness should be a person or persons who would have something to say that is relevant to your case, not someone who will provide a character witness.

Decide who you will need as a witness and ask if they would be willing to attend and testify at a tribunal hearing.  If they agree, obtain their dates of availability in case you agree to a hearing date which might coincide with their holiday arrangements.  A witness statement from someone who cannot attend the hearing will probably not be given much weight by the tribunal as the witness would be unable to answer questions about their statement.

What is a witness statement?

In most discrimination cases the evidence in chief is given by witness statement.  A witness statement is a document outlining, in their own words, evidence on what happened, the order that it happened, including concise details of events and full names of any witnesses.  Ensure important evidence is not omitted from a witness statement because you think that you will ‘surprise’ the Respondent with it at the hearing.  You run the risk of the Tribunal not allowing you to introduce that evidence at that late stage.

You, as the Claimant, will be a witness so you too may be required to produce a witness statement.  In many cases where you are representing yourself the tribunal will not expect you to produce a witness statement and your evidence will simply be taken as oral evidence in the hearing.  This will be decided by the tribunal.

What will the witnesses say?
As you would expect, you may not tell a witness what to say, nor may you coach them in how they should say it.  But it is permissible to talk to them and ask them what they intend to say.  Take a note of the evidence that a witness will give to the tribunal.  Consider how it advances your claim and in particular decide whether it is sufficient.  Witness evidence might not shed light on the issue that you thought and you may need to consider whether to call that witness or whether it would be better to call someone else.

Exchange of witness statements
Usually in discrimination cases the Tribunal directs that the parties lodge their evidence by way of witness statement.  A timetable will be established for the exchange of statements.  This provides both parties with the opportunity to see what the other is going to say and prepare questions for cross-examination.  The tribunal will not allow you to add anything or change your evidence once the witness statements have been exchanged, unless there is a very good reason, so it's important to get your statement right. 

My witnesses are complaining they are ´out of pocket´ - Can I claim?
You can claim for travel and subsistence expenses incurred by your witnesses, but the claim must be submitted within one calendar month of the conclusion of the hearing at the latest and sooner if possible.  A witness expenses form should be obtained from the tribunal clerk on the day of hearing.

Up-to-date rates are available on the tribunal’s website

If a witness is unwilling to attend the tribunal

What can I do?
If a witness is unwilling to attend and you think that their presence is necessary you can apply to the tribunal for a Witness Order.  This compels the witness to attend and if they fail to do so, they are guilty of a criminal offence and may be convicted and fined.  This is also applicable if a witness is willing to attend but the Respondent will not release them without a witness order. 

Application for a Witness Order needs to indicate:
  • the name and address of the witness
  • why they are required as a witness
  • the nature of the evidence they will give
  • a statement that the witness declines to attend unless an order is made
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