Statement of the facts (narratio) -
“We must state our facts like advocates, not witnesses”.
The statement of facts often blends into the introduction, starting with some comment that establishes the advocates personal and professional credibility by demonstrating that he or she is fair with regard to their treatment of the defendant, or has clearly understood the issues in the case, and then going on to explain the facts of the case. Here, the advocate provides a narrative account of what has happened and generally explains the nature of the case.
According to Aristotle, the statement of facts should not be too long and that advocates “could narrate whatever tends to your own credit or to the discredit of the other side”1.
Quintilian says that the narratio or statement of facts “consists of an exposition of what has been done, or what is supposed to have been done –
it is a speech instructing the audience as to the nature of the case in dispute”2.
This narrative must be more than a bare recitation of the facts. It must be written “so that the judge knows not merely what has been done, but takes a view of the facts which is favourable to our case, for the purpose of the statement of facts is not merely to instruct but rather to persuade the judge”3.
Thus the statement of facts should demonstrate clarity, conciseness and relevance. Quintilian provided the following hints and tips to the advocates of the day, tips which can be usefully taken onboard by those of us drafting statements of facts today.
“The statement of facts will be brief, if in the first place we start at that point of the case at which it begins to concern the judge, secondly avoid irrelevance, and finally cut out everything the removal of which neither hampers the activities of the judge nor harms our own case.”4
“We shall achieve lucidity and clearness in our statement of the facts, first by setting forth our story in words which are appropriate, significant and free from any stain of meanness, but not on the other hand, far-fetched or unusual, and secondly, by giving a distinct account of facts, persons, times, places and causes, while our delivery must be adapted to our matter, so that the judge will take in what we say with the utmost readiness.”5
“Avoid terseness in speech, since a style which presents no difficulties to a leisurely reader, flies past a hearer and will not stay to be looked at again...Consequently we must aim, perhaps everywhere, but above all in our statement of facts, at striking the happy mean in our language and the happy mean may be defined as saying just what is necessary and just what is sufficient. I mean not the bare minimum to convey our meaning, for our brevity must not be devoid of elegance, without which it would merely be uncouth: and I would never carry my desire for brevity so far as to refuse admission to details which contribute to the plausibility of the narrative.”6
Note: you can be more concise when drafting the factual background in your skeleton argument as the judge can re-read what you have written at their leisure, whereas you should avoid being terse and overly concise when presenting the facts of your case to the judge whilst opening.
Quintilian also recommended sub dividing your description of the factual background of your case into headings, so that the key facts come across in bite-sized chunks rather than one long narrative:
“division of our statement into its various heads is another method of avoiding tedium – such a division will give the impression of short statements rather than one long one.”7
You can read further detail on the purpose of a statement of facts, and how to write a good one by reading Quintilians Fourth book, Chapter 2, which covers this in detail.
1Aristotle, Rhetoric at 229
22 Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria at 67
32 Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria at 61
42 Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria at 73
52 Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria at 69-71
62 Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria at 75
72 Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria at 77