A key component of fact-finding is the gathering and reporting of evidence. The fact-finding report is intended to be a reliable resource for labour relations practitioners. Thus, the following DOs and DON’Ts should be considered when preparing the evidence section of the fact-finding report:
- DO be concise. Often the position of one of the parties, or the evidence of a witness, can be summarized briefly, while remaining complete. Avoid presenting the argument or information in a certain order, or at a given level of detail, simply because the witness did so.
- DO present only evidence that is relevant. Often one piece of information that seems relevant at one point in the investigation is ultimately found irrelevant.
- DO indicate the full extent of a witness’ knowledge of an event. Did the witness actually see or hear the event? Did she/he hear about it second-hand? Or, is she/he speculating on what might have happened?
- DO try to see the evidence and the report from the perspective of someone who knows nothing about the events; try to anticipate and answer the questions of the reader.
- DO use direct quotes where the exact words are important. Also, ensure that you present a witness’ evidence with use of attributive phrases such as “the witness stated that…”, so that it is clear that the material represents the witness’ evidence, and not your own opinions or observations.
- DON’T exclude evidence simply because you don’t think that it is credible. Include the evidence and discuss the witness’ credibility, if necessary, in the analysis section of the report so the reader can make his/her own decision.
- DON’T include, in the evidence section, analytical material or commentary such as, “This statement by the respondent is inconsistent with his previous statement that…”. The inconsistency should be apparent to your reader if the report is well-written—if you need to point it out explicitly, you can do so in the analysis section.
Compiling an accurate fact-finding report is integral to a good investigative outcome; make sure you present the facts with purpose and objectivity.