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If, during a disciplinary investigation, it transpires that there were external witnesses, then as part of a good investigation you should endeavour to obtain witness statements from them. Use our external witness statement request letter to assist you with this process.
Clearly, it won’t always be possible to obtain statements from external witnesses during your disciplinary investigation, for example in retail premises where the witnesses were just passing customers. However, in many cases, the witnesses will be external third parties you’re familiar with, such as your key clients or suppliers or contractors working on your site. In that situation, you need to ensure you do your best to include them within your disciplinary investigation, particularly as their factual description of the events could well be the most objective, as they have nothing to lose or gain by telling the complete truth. Of course, they might not want to get involved but this doesn’t stop you at least trying, particularly as the Acas guidance which supports the Acas Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures states that employers should try to obtain a written statement from any witness outside the organisation.
Our E xternal Witness Statement Request Letter enables you to write to your external witness asking them to provide a witness statement. It explains that you’re conducting a disciplinary investigation and briefly outlines the alleged incident. Be careful not to be too descriptive here: you don’t want to end up putting words into their mouth by setting out full details of the allegations which they then simply copy over into their statement! The letter goes on to ask the witness to prepare a statement by a stipulated deadline setting out their version of events relating to the incident and ensuring that the statement includes their name and address, the date, time and place of the incident, why they were present, a full description of what happened and the people involved and the names (or descriptions) of anyone else present. As your duty is to gather witness evidence promptly, you want to aim to get the witness statement back within a few days. Make it easier for them by providing a pre-paid addressed envelope. Our letter also advises the witness that their statement may need to be disclosed to the accused employee should the case proceed to a disciplinary hearing. The witness needs to be aware this is likely to happen - you don’t want them later trying to withdraw their statement on the basis they thought they’d given it entirely confidentially and nobody else would ever see it. It might be an option to anonymise the witness statement if they insist on remaining anonymous. Finally, our letter asks the witness to treat the matter as confidential and not discuss it with anyone else - the last thing you want is your witness telling your other employees all about it, particularly as you have very limited power to “control” what an external witness does.