A section 20 statement cannot be relied upon in evidence without the witness attending court to give the evidence recorded on the LP7 except in very limited circumstances (see Exceptions to the hearsay rule). If the case is tried in the magistrates’ court (i.e.
where the charge is a summary only offence or where, after the mode of trial procedure, the case is to be tried in the magistrates’ court), compelled statements can be served on the defence: 24.
Whilst a section 20 statement can be included within those documents, it should be borne in mind that the witness will have to be called to give evidence unless the content of the statement can be agreed by a formal admission. There are a number of ways a compelled statement can be useful. It is important to bear in mind that, where an offence has been committed by a body corporate, directors, managers, company secretaries or other similar officers of a corporate body may also be guilty of an offence under HSWA section 37. These are people in positions of authority within the corporate body who have both the power and responsibility to decide corporate policy and strategy.
Whether such a person is a suspect in your investigation will depend on the evidence that you have collected. You are under a duty to follow all reasonable lines of inquiry.
This may include investigating the involvement of individuals in any suspected breach.
A witness statement is a document recording the evidence of a person, which is signed by that person to confirm that the contents of the statement are true. A statement should record what the witness saw, heard or felt. Section 20(2)(j) HSWA gives you the power to require any person whom you have reasonable cause to believe will be able to provide information relevant to your examination or investigation, to answer such questions as you think fit to ask and to sign a declaration of the truth of the answers. Information obtained using this power should be recorded in the form of a statement using form LP7 and, if required, the continuation form LP8. You should only record the information provided to you by the witness, i.e. It is essential that you make it clear to the witness that you are using your compulsory powers before asking any questions. Answers given by a person compelled to answer your questions are not admissible against that person or their spouse or civil partner (section 20(7) HSWA, as amended). When you take a statement from a witness, you should, wherever possible, take a statement under section 9 CJA as there are limitations on how a compelled (s20) statement can be used in legal proceedings. The witness should be asked if s/he agrees to give you a voluntary statement.
However, it is also important to record anything that may open up a new line of enquiry or help in corroborating other information. A s9 statement is taken from a person who has voluntarily given the statement. If they do, their evidence should be recorded on an LP70. You should ensure that the witness has the opportunity to check the contents of the statement and make any corrections before s/he signs it.
Under s9 CJA the contents of a written statement will be admissible, without the witness attending court to give oral evidence, if the following conditions are satisfied: 6.
You should also ensure that the witness understands the perjury declaration (see above) contained in a s9 statement before signing. In most cases, witnesses will be willing to cooperate with your investigation.
If a witness is unsure as to whether they wish to provide a voluntary statement, you will need to carefully explain your reasons for interviewing him/her and that s/he is not being treated as a suspect.
You may explain that, if s/he will not volunteer relevant information or feels that circumstances prevent him/her from doing so, you can use your powers to require that information. Where you have grounds to suspect that a person may have committed an offence, you should not treat him as a witness but should offer him/her an interview under caution instead. Whenever you take a statement (whether compelled or not) you should record whether you have exercised your section 20(2)(j) power in your notebook, in case this is raised at a later date.