Calling a hostile witness

First, for transparency, I am acting for the local authority in this HB appeal, not the claimant – if that puts anyone off from responding on this site I fully understand.  Can’t say too much, it’s a complex case of a type you see more and more these days.  I can assure you, though, I am on the side of the angels with this one.

If you are still with me up to here, I’ll get to the point.  I would like the Tribunal to hear from a key witness.  He is likely to be sympathetic to the appellant – the local authority’s case relies somewhat on bad faith on the part of this witness.  The other side doesn’t want to call him. They say: if you want to hear evidence from him, call him as your witness.

Now, the Tribunal has directed that any party wishing to call a witness should submit a witness statement ahead of the hearing.  This all seems a bit awkward to me: am I supposed to obtain a statement from a witness who is hostile to my case, then cross-examine my own witness in order to discredit his statement?  Should I call him as my witness, get him to answer my questions in writing and submit the answers by way of a witness statement, then during the oral hearing attack the very statement I have submitted myself?

What I have asked the Tribunal to do is direct the witness to attend as a sort of witness for the Tribunal rather than a witness for one side or the other.  I am happy to let him have advance sight of the questions I want to ask him.  I’m just not comfortable with calling him as my witness.

Anyone been in this position (on either side) and how did you handle it?


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