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Witness Statements and Providing Website Data to Trading Standards

Discussion in 'Business Discussions' started by markb, Jun 9, 2016.

  1. markb United Kingdom

    markb Active Member

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    HI, I run a few UK websites where the public can publish information, i.e. adverts, forum posts etc.... We sometimes get requests for information from trading standards, councils and the police regarding users on our websites and we are asked to provide all the data which we hold on the user, including old posts and adverts etc... When these cases reach court proceedings, we are often asked to sign a witness statement and possibly attend court if required, which could be any court in the UK, depending on where the user is located.

    I'm just wondering if any other business owners on here have a similar experience, and do you actually have to sign a witness statement and attend court? It is very difficult as we are only a small family run business, and do not have the time to be attending court proceedings. Plus the only thing we could actually say in court, is to agree that the data we provided was data taken from our websites database.
     
  2. Domain Forum

    Acorn Domains Elite Member

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  3. invincible

    invincible Well-Known Member

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    I believe your signing of the witness statement is to state that the evidence you have provided is true. If however the defendent disputes your evidence and decides to pick it apart in court you would likely be asked to attend. If you were cross examined by the defence in court you might find yourself saying an awful lot more than you think.

    Most people probably have better things to do than attend court wherever. Unfortunately it's a cost of doing the business you do. When I worked as a station officer for the police, briefly in my life, a gentleman handed me a fake driving licence with "DLVA" on. He was arrested for that and I, as a civilian, had to sign the officers witness statement. Potentially I would have had to go to court to state what happened but fortunately I didn't hear anything further so I presume he admitted it at the first opportunity.

    Cross your fingers and hope the defence admits everything and doesn't contest your evidence.
     
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2016
  4. namealot United Kingdom

    namealot Well-Known Member

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    You do not have to make a statement at all no matter who ask or what they imply no legal requirement to give a witness statement although they likely push its your “civic duty”

    Trading standards, councils some would say there overreaching to even ask (Also beware to whom/ what you release e.g .contrary to the Data Protection Act.etc )

    Police etc have no more powers than above they collect them pass on to CPS who use it to help decide if a conviction is likely? Statements can be for prosecution , defence If your statements crucial for either you’ll be called for sure A decent legal eagle may call you even if they have no intention of cross examining you because they no people change there minds, go on holiday and some make crap witness

    End of the day its down to personal choice if you do or don't
     
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2016
  5. invincible

    invincible Well-Known Member

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    Why all the question marks? :) Are you making statements or asking questions? I think a rewrite is in order. It's 4:10am; have you just got in?

    He's probably going to find it difficult avoiding making a statement given those inquiring know he has evidence on his systems which they're asking him to turn over and he's deciding to be responsible by turning it over. So perhaps his dilemma is refusing to turn up to court to be a witness in relation to the digital evidence, potentially causing the case fall to bits, or doing what he feels is the responsible thing. Anyway. Pointless discussion. Go consult a solicitor and do what you feel is best each time. :)
     
  6. namealot United Kingdom

    namealot Well-Known Member

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    OP was talking about witness statement? If police etc want to use digital forensic to collect evidence different ball game they can seize your equipment etc under different legal powers , Thats not the same as statements have you just finished a night under the bridge :) and just for you ??????????????
     
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2016
  7. chrisvaughanuk United Arab Emirates

    chrisvaughanuk Active Member

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    I've got a fair bit of experience in providing evidence for court and making statements. I'm a digital forensics investigator.

    What you could consider doing is charging for your services. Do Trading Standards (etc) issue you with court orders or are they making formal but non legally binding requests for information? If the latter, you could consider charging them for your time (probably not if the former) - including the writing of any statements. You could also consider charging for your time associated with a court case as a professional witness. It's a while since I was working in the UK, but the hourly rate is not great any more (about £72 I think) - but it's something.

    BTW: http://www.derbyshire.police.uk/Safety-advice/Victims-and-Witnesses/Useful-Information/FAQs.aspx#q2 - As stated, you don't have to make a witness statement but obviously really read into any ramifications of not doing so.
     
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2016
  8. namealot United Kingdom

    namealot Well-Known Member

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    In the context of OP I'd say they fall under more a "Lay witness" umbrella thus standard witness statement, ( Police etc a coming to them to gather evidence ).
    Pretty sure they wouldn't get "Expert Witness" status in context of OP as I read it (they are actually involved in the case so to speak conflict etc) But hell if you can go for it ,,,,

    They can get a court order for seizure of good, for you to turn up in court if you’ve made a statement etc but not to get you to give a statement..
     
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2016
  9. chrisvaughanuk United Arab Emirates

    chrisvaughanuk Active Member

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    All true but could be worth a go as a subject matter expert (there is nothing to lose by trying) - and restricting yourself to the subject and the matter that is within your realm of experience.
     
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2016
  10. atlas Canada

    atlas Well-Known Member

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    From Police.uk:

    https://www.askthe.police.uk/content/Q539.htm

    Basically, you don't need to do anything unless there is a court order or summons that states otherwise. Even then, if you are so inclined you can challenge the court order or summons.
     
  11. Skinner

    Skinner Well-Known Member

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    Just as a point of curiosity... lets say you refuse to do a statement and they decide to go for a court order and seize your hardware to extract said data. Doesn't this effectively put you out action pending return ?

    I know people who had property held for various reasons and they've had to wait months for the return. I'm just curious how it would work.
     
  12. atlas Canada

    atlas Well-Known Member

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    I don't know the answer to that, but normally you'll get notice that they are asking for a court order, and time to reply / agree / object.
     
  13. markb United Kingdom

    markb Active Member

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    We are happy to give data to the police and trading standards, the only issue is the prospect of having to attend various courts around the UK, which would take up our time when we need to be working. I think the issue is, if we do provide data, but then don't sign a witness statement then the data cannot be used as evidence. It's got to the point due to how popular the website is, that we are now receiving over 10 data requests each week. We've never had to attend court as of yet though.
     
  14. invincible

    invincible Well-Known Member

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    I'm not sure I'll be able to cope if you don't let me know what the web site is! Please do tell. Email if you prefer to keep it off here.
     
  15. namealot United Kingdom

    namealot Well-Known Member

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    % whom report both to police / trading standards or a site that would cover both types of cant be that many e.g trading standards faulty goods, poor workmanship type,Police burglary, violence, theft etc

    With % acted further or investigate to extent of requesting information being small . Your site receives 10 request per week 520 p.a surprised they have not seized your computers etc Or tried to shut you down ( certainly would some business ).

    If actually meeting taking, proof of identity etc from those connected with site a statement might be relevant but one taken without above wouldn’t stand up to identifying the person etc e.g x signs to to site in reality there y ?

    Btw they wouldn’t need a witness statement to use (Digital) forensic evidence etc preference avoid “real people” in prosecutions as “evidence” is better than statements most of the time …

    Personally I’d be more concerned about the amount of requests possible damage to company etc Than the statement sides of things ?
    what is the site? bodge a builder pay with stolen credit card .com :)
     
  16. Skinner

    Skinner Well-Known Member

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    I'm always amused my David doesn't know something and wants to know. I can literally see him crawling up the wall, and rocking back and too heheh. Saying that I'm curious too but I wouldn't e telling anyone exactly which site, as above potential for damage could be high.
     
  17. markb United Kingdom

    markb Active Member

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    It's a classifieds website where people advertise things for sale like gumtree. It's quite common that buyers report advertisers to trading standards for false advertising or other issues, and then trading standards requires a history of all adverts placed by the advertiser. I'm sure websites like eBay, gumtree, Facebook get hundreds/thousands of data protection requests each week and they do not get shut down.
     
  18. namealot United Kingdom

    namealot Well-Known Member

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    That’s to do with the way there companies are set up, structured etc also to a lesser extent measure’s they implement to cut down certain activities, how payment is made, goods are sold, customer protection ( paypal etc ) volume of sale against complaints they also have very deep pockets and dedicated legal teams.

    If buyer/ seller are based within a smaller area meaning only one or two Trading standards offices are involved those office’s receiving a higher % of the complaints may make them look at you further?

    If yours is set up as the ones you mention though they are .pretty much impossible to close, I’m sure you’ll be fine but if complaints grow exponentially with sales it needs considering
     
  19. markb United Kingdom

    markb Active Member

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    If anyone does have any similar experience of running a popular UK website (10 Million plus visitors per month) with user contributed posts or adverts, please contact me via pm.
     
  20. namealot United Kingdom

    namealot Well-Known Member

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    To add to my prev post and avoid confusion the part "may make them look at you further?" wasn't with reference to TS being directly involved with closure of business
    If the sites as you say then trading standards are much less of a worry they can’t directly close you down (they can assist in bringing prosecutions though which may lead to closure ) Police is a different matter
     
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2016

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