In order to hold an effective disciplinary enquiry, proper preparation must take place. It is the duty of the person in charge of prosecuting the case (the employer’s prosecutor) to ensure that the witnesses for the employer are prepared. This means:
1. Each witness knows what it is that they need to say to prove the misconduct; and just as importantly
2. The prosecutor needs to know what his own witnesses are going to say.
We recommend that each witness writes out a statement setting out the sequence of events surrounding their witnessing the misconduct. The prosecutor should then sit with each witness and have them tell their story to him/her. The prosecutor should then ask questions in order to “fill in” the gaps left out by the witness so that the Chairperson of the disciplinary enquiry (See previous article – The Chairperson’s Role at a Disciplinary Enquiry) will get a complete picture of what transpired according to each witness.
A witness should be made aware that it does not assist the case to fabricate or embellish. They must also be made aware that they will be cross-examined on their evidence and must be in a position to confirm what they said earlier. Finally, a witness must be made aware that if during cross-examination they are asked a question to which they do not know the answer, they must say that they don’t know and not try to make up an answer.
The evidence presented at a disciplinary enquiry will make or break the case, so it is of paramount importance to get the facts straight and be prepared.