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Evidence in Court – Witness Statements

How much can a Judge rely on evidence given by witnesses in court? The case of AK (Turkey) explores this issue which is summarised below.

Evidence in Court – Witness Statements

How much can a Judge rely on evidence given by witnesses in court?

Especially, where there are discrepancies in the witnesses’ oral evidence given in court, can the Judge completely disregard them on the basis that they are not credible?

The case of AK (Turkey) explores this issue which is summarised below.

 

AK (Turkey) [2004] UKIAT00230

Facts

The Appellant, in this case, was a Turkish citizen who arrived in the UK in March 2000. He applied for Asylum 3 weeks after arriving in the UK. However, his application was refused, and he was served with a removal order by the Home Office.

The Appellant appealed the Home Office’s decision which was refused by the First-tier Tribunal Judge, Mr B M Suchak, on the grounds that his evidence ‘totally lacked credibility’ because there were discrepancies in the Appellant’s oral evidence. Therefore, the Judge refused to accept all material evidence submitted by the Appellant.

He appealed the First-tier Tribunal Judge’s decision and asked for a remittal hearing before a different Judge.

Decision

It was highlighted in this case that the First- Tier Tribunal Judge’s decision was ‘unsustainable’, as Mr Suchak did not properly consider the oral evidence given by the Appellant and the 5 witnesses in court.

Additionally, the Judge failed to address the nature and content of the witnesses’ oral evidence in his decision.  A summary of what was said by the witnesses in court should have been included in his decision. The Judge, as a matter of good practice, should have provided a summary in his decision of the main facts raised by the witness’s oral evidence so that an informed reader could ascertain the content of the evidence.

However, the Judge simply stated that the witnesses ‘relied on their witness statements’. Therefore, the judge had failed to make clear fact findings and failed to give proper consideration of the material issues in the case from the witnesses.

This case emphasised that due to the Judge’s failure to conduct fact findings from the 5 witnesses, he committed a serious error. That serious error alone was enough to regard the Judge’s decision as ‘fatally flawed’.

Furthermore, the Judge did not consider other psychiatric or medical evidence submitted before the court. Thus, the Judge cannot be said to have fully assessed the medical circumstances of the Appellant.  The Judge should have fully explained the reasons for not taking the medical evidence into consideration.

Owing to the reasons above, the appeal was allowed for a remittal hearing before a different Judge.

 

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