29 Apr 2019
The Chartered Institute has launched its Guidelines for Witness Conferencing in International Arbitration at a regional conference in Singapore on 23 April 2019.
Witness conferencing, a process for taking evidence concurrently from multiple witnesses, has become increasingly popular in international arbitration, particularly in relation to expert evidence. The Guidelines provide arbitrators, parties and experts with a checklist of issues to consider when deciding whether to hold a witness conference, and standard and specific procedural directions to be adopted or tailored as appropriate to provide a framework for the process. They are accompanied by detailed explanatory notes.
“Although there has been a notable growth in popularity of witness conferencing in arbitration, there is surprisingly little literature on the subject and hardly any practical guidance available on the process,” said Timothy Cooke, partner at Stephenson Harwood and Vice-Chair of the sub-committee on witness conferencing established by the Singapore branch of the Chartered Institute in 2017. “In devising the Guidelines, we were keen to craft a flexible and non-prescriptive document that would assist tribunals and parties to prepare for and conduct conferences in a wide variety of cases,” he added.
Expert witnesses will also find the Guidelines valuable. Jonathan Ellis, Director of Accuracy Singapore and one of the drafters of the Guidelines, explained: “By adopting the Guidelines for witness conferencing, arbitrators, counsel for the parties and experts are all on the same page and know what is expected of each other. The Checklist also helps to reduce the risk that the quality of evidence is compromised when, for example, expert witnesses have contrasting experience in giving evidence, or where they come from different cultural backgrounds.”
The Guidelines were conceived and prepared by a sub-committee of the Singapore branch of the Chartered Institute, with the approval of the Institute’s Practice and Standards Committee. The Singapore sub-committee comprised arbitrators, private practitioners, in-house counsel and expert witnesses, from civil and common law jurisdictions and with experience in commercial and investor-state arbitration and was chaired by Michael Lee of 20 Essex St.
Guidelines for Witness Conferencing in International Arbitration can be downloaded here.
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