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If I start a court action, what procedure will I need to follow?

In the Going to Court section of this website we provide an outline of the way in which you can seek to prove your case, how you may be able to finance the court action, how you may be able to get help from lawyers and others, and how you may be able to enforce the order which the Court may grant at the end of the legal action.

The discussion of these issues in the Going to Court section of this website is in general terms – in other words, it does not specifically concern court actions in relation to corruption.  In this section of the website, we will assume that you have already read these general materials, and we will instead explain the specific procedural questions that arise in relation to corruption cases.

1

The evidence that you will need in order to pursue your claim

As we explain in the Going to Court section of the website, if you are planning to commence a court action, you will be responsible for producing evidence before the court to show that the defendant committed the acts you have complained of, and the consequences of those actions.  You will also need to show that the defendant is responsible for the harm you suffered as a result of those actions.

You will therefore need information about:

  • the events which took place
  • the corrupt decisions or acts, and
  • the consequences of those decisions or acts.

You should also consider the following points:

  • If payments were made, you will need to provide as much information as you can about the amount of the payments, when they were made, and how they were made.
  • If other property was given or taken as a result of the corrupt acts, you will need to provide evidence of this, including (if possible) the current location of the property.
  • If you were the owner of the property at the time it was taken, it would be useful to provide proof of your ownership.

It will be necessary for you to obtain detailed and precise information on each of these points, so that the court can understand the situation fully.

The most important part of the evidence that you will need to produce in the court action is the evidence of the wrongdoer’s corrupt intent. In other words, you will need to demonstrate in clear terms that the wrongdoer was motivated by the desire to make a private gain out of the misuse of a public position.

This will often be difficult, because it involves obtaining evidence of someone’s state of mind in relation to and act or decision about which they may well feel sensitive.

  • It would be useful to have evidence of things that the wrongdoer said or wrote which suggested a corrupt motive.
  • But often this is not possible, and so it may be necessary instead to find other evidence that their actions were motivated by private gain.
  • Perhaps they took or received property that did not belong to them without the free consent of the owner.
  • Or perhaps there is evidence of a close person who made the decision or took the corrupt action, and the person who stands to benefit from that decision or action.

You will want to consider carefully at an early stage what evidence there is of corrupt intent. Without persuasive evidence of this, it will often be difficult to pursue a court action successfully.

PRACTICAL TIPS:  You may find it helpful to make a list of all of the points that you will need to prove, and to collect together all of the evidence that you currently have on each of these points.

Some of this evidence will be in the form of documents and photographs, some of it will be held on computer, and some of it may be in the oral recollections that people involved in the offence have told you. (Keeping all of this evidence safe is important, as we explain in  the Going to Court section of the website.)

Once you have made this list, and you have collected the evidence which you currently have in your possession, you will then be able to understand what further evidence or information you need to obtain before you launch your court claim.

2

How to get the evidence that you need

For the reasons explained in the previous section, eight Will be very important for you to identifying information that you need for your playing, and two obtain it in as much detail as possible. This may take you some time to do, out you should not be concerned about this: spending time making sure that you have all the evidence you will need is one of the most important things you can do in preparing to ring court litigation.

In the section of this website on Rights to Information we discuss the ways in which you can obtain information from government, from state authorities, from companies and other entities in relation to issues that affect you. We recommend that you have a look at that guidance, because it may surprise you to discover how much information can be obtained in this way.

If you are thinking of bringing a court action in relation to corrupt acts or decisions, you will need to obtain as much information about the act or decision as possible. The laws in your country that govern access to information may well enable you to do this. In many countries, citizens have a right to demand information from the state about decisions affecting such matters as the expenditure of public monies, and the award of permissions, concessions, public contracts and other commitments.

PRACTICAL TIPS: Often you will be able to obtain the name of the public official or body which took the decision, the membership of any committees responsible for the decisions, and the extent of that body or committee’s decision-making power.

You may also be able to compare that decision with other similar decisions which were taken apparently without corrupt motives, in order to be able to show that the decision you are seeking to challenge may have been motivated by improper considerations such as corrupt payments.

3

Explaining your case

Before you start the court action, you will need to have collected the evidence that you need in order to demonstrate the main elements of the claim that you wish to bring.  You will also need to have prepared a document in which you explain your claim in clear and detailed terms. That document should be structured in a careful and somewhat formal way, to make sure that the court has all of the information that it needs.

In that document you should describe the act or decision which was brought about by corruption, and you should also explain the role of the wrongdoer.  If you had dealings with the wrongdoer, then you should explain your relationship with them, and summarise in a chronological way the dealings that you had with them.  As explained above, you should state the reasons why you consider the act or decision was motivated by corruption. You should explain the consequences of the corrupt act or decision, and the reasons why it has caused you or other people loss. You should explain what would have happened if the corruption had not taken place.

Finally, you should explain what remedy you want. For example, it may be that you want financial compensation, or perhaps you want an order setting aside a decision or action that was motivated by corrupt intention and which is causing you harm.  We explain the range of remedies to which you may be entitled in the discussion on “What remedies might I be able to obtain?

PRACTICAL TIP: When you have written all of this down, it would be a good idea to ask a lawyer to look at it. Ensuring that this document is well-drafted is very important indeed for your case, because the court will rely on that document in understanding the nature of your claim, and in identifying key points which the other party needs to answer.

 

4

The court process

When you have collected your evidence, and have prepared a document which explains your claim, you should then be able to commence the court claim. The procedure which then governs the determination of your claim will depend on which type of court you choose, and on the procedural rules of that court. The process is likely to be broadly as follows.

  1. The document which you have prepared in order to explain your claim is generally provided to the wrongdoer and to anyone else involved in the court action. (For example, it may be that you have decided to bring the court action against not only the wrongdoer but also his or her employer. If you are suing a company, it may be that you will also sue individual employees of the company, or perhaps the “parent” company which owns the main defendant.)
  2. If you have commenced your action in an administrative court, or your action is against the government or a public authority, it may be necessary for you to obtain the permission of the court to proceed with the action. If so, there may be a short preliminary court hearing at which the judge decides whether your claim is sufficiently strong that it should be allowed to proceed. The judge will not determine the outcome of the claim at this point. However, if the claim appears obviously weak, or is for some reason procedurally defective, the judge may order that the claim should not be allowed to proceed. If this happens, you may be able to correct the defect and resubmit the claim.
  3. It is likely that the defendants to your action will then have a chance to explain their position. They may say that your factual account of the acts or decisions which took place is wrong. Alternatively, they may say that the acts or decisions were not motivated by corrupt intent. When they have explained that position, it will then be possible for you to identify the main questions which are likely to be most important in this case.
  4. In most court cases, the next stage is for the parties to provide each other the evidence upon which they rely, which supports their respective positions.  As explained above, the evidence may be in documentary form, in electronic form or in the form of oral testimony from witnesses. If it is the latter, generally it will be necessary for the gist of that evidence to be set out in writing, in a document called a witness statement. Generally the witness will need to appear in person at the trial (see next paragraph), in order to answer any questions on his or her evidence.
  5. Once evidence has been exchanged, the court generally notifies the parties of a date for the main court hearing (sometimes called the “trial“). You well probably need the support of lawyers for the trial, if you have not previously used them in the preparatory stages of the court action. At the trial, each of the parties has an opportunity to explain their case, and to provide more detail that the court may request. Witnesses attend and are asked questions on their testimony.
  6. At the conclusion of the trial, the judge will issue a decision on the claim. If the claim is successful, the judge will generally award one or more remedies, for example the award of financial compensation, or the issue of an order setting aside the act or decision which is said to have been corrupt.
  7. In most courts the judge will also deal with the question of the legal costs of the action. By this time you and the other parties will have spent money on lawyers fees. In many countries, the general rule is that whoever wins the litigation is generally entitled to recover from the other party at least part of their legal costs arising from the court claim.
5

Enforcing a court order

If you have pursued your court action all the way through to the trial, and you have succeeded in persuading the Judge that your claim is valid, you may then obtain an order for financial compensation or some other form of remedy. We discuss this in some detail in the Going to Court section on “How can I enforce a Court Order?“.  We recommend that you review this guidance, and in particular the practical tips at the end of the discussion concerning publicity and support.

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