Difference between a Witness Statement and a Skeleton Argument.

Some defendants get confused about the difference between a Witness Statement and a Skeleton argument. Some take fright at this stage as they don't know what to do when it is actually very simple.

Take this poem to illustrates how to write a Witness Statements (WS). A WS is descriptive and contains only facts

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Witness Statement of Mr W Wordsworth

1. On [date] it is by common agreement that I wandered lonely as a cloud

2. And again by by common agreement, the location was beside the lake, beneath the trees.

3. I did see a crowd, a host of golden daffodils but I dispute there were any signs there restricting my access or use of the said space.

Skeleton Arguments are based on questions to which you have to propose an answer. Take Mr Hamlet.

To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,


Skeleton Argument of Mr Hamlet and Ms Portia

Skeleton Arguments are written differently - in the third person form.

1. The defendant avers that the issue at hand is To be, or not to be

2. Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 at item 9 which says ..... answers the question Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles.

Take another work of Shakespeare (Merchant of Venice) which deals with a court case based on contract law, Portia argues the limits to Shylock's claim as you should do to. This is especially true of all the additional costs they attempt to add on to bump up the value of a claim.

Therefore prepare thee to cut off the flesh.
Shed thou no blood, nor cut thou less nor more
But just a pound of flesh. If thou takest more
Or less than a just pound, be it but so much
As makes it light or heavy in the substance
Or the division of the twentieth part
Of one poor scruple—nay, if the scale do turn
But in the estimation of a hair,
Thou diest and all thy goods are confiscate.

3. The defendant avers that all the claimant is entitled to is a pound of flesh but not any more. The limit to their claim is the estimation of a hair.

Summing up

So Witness Statements are the facts of what happened on the day from your own recollection and (hopefully) backed up by letters and photos that confirm what you are saying. The Skeleton Argument is just that. The (legal) reasons why the claim should fail together with a quote from either similar cases or legal references.


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  • 0

    Marvellous. So now I need so shift half of what I have in my WS to my Skeleton. Alas, poor Yorick!

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