• Send us a message

    Fill in our form and we'll get back to you as soon as possible

    Please enter name
    Please enter your telephone number
    Please enter your email address
    Please let us know which of offices would most convenient for you?
    Please enter the details of your enquiry
    Please enter the verification code
    Send us a message
  • Services for you
  • Services for business

Everyone Has a Civic Duty to Assist Judges in Resolving Disputes

It is a civic duty to assist the courts in the resolution of disputes, and judges have the power to compel reluctant witnesses to give evidence. Exactly that happened in one case in which a solicitor was required to attend court to testify in respect of a disputed property transaction.

The case concerned a woman's claim that she had lent a man £250,000 to enable him to purchase a house. The man insisted that the money was a gift. As that was a matter of fact to be decided by the court, the case would hinge on the evidence, and the woman obtained a witness summons that required a conveyancing solicitor who had acted for the man in the purchase to attend court to give evidence in person.

In applying to set the summons aside, the solicitor argued that it had not been issued in good faith, in that the woman's objective was to impugn his conduct rather than to elicit relevant evidence. He was reluctant to take sides and his attendance at court was in any event unnecessary as he had made a written statement and the conveyancing file had been disclosed to the woman.

In dismissing the application, however, a judge noted that the solicitor had the advantage of being an objective and independent source and was likely to be a most important witness in resolving the factual issues at the heart of the case. The trial judge would be able to prevent questioning that was irrelevant or in conflict with his professional duty to maintain client confidentiality.

The possibility that his conduct might be criticised did not mean that the summons was oppressive. The fact that he was a busy man with a practice to run also did not excuse him from his duty to attend court, and arrangements would be made to ensure that he suffered a minimum of inconvenience.

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.