Why gather evidence?

Records are an account in writing, preserving the memory or knowledge of facts or events.  They are the basis upon which organisations, businesses, agencies and individuals function.

It’s often important to report conversations and discussions, events and decisions. Properly recorded notes are most important when things go wrong and they are essential to show compliance. They are crucial when an event is being investigated.

Police officers when giving evidence in court ask for permission to refer to their notes. They are required to make contemporaneous notes ( i.e. notes made at the time or as soon after as practicable) because no matter how significant an event, it’s impossible to remember it clearly especially as time passes. It’s very easy to forget what later becomes significant.

Keeping records of oral communications – discussions, interviews, negotiations and agreements – will help to get a proper timeline of what happened, to recall what was said, what you and others agreed to do and why certain things were agreed.

What should be recorded?

With conversations, start with a note of the time, date and place, and list the people present. If you note down anyone else who was present you will have the names of any witnesses.) Don’t try to record every detail, just note down the key points of what was said. Try to quote verbatim.  Don’t record what you felt or thought.

Most oral communications – conversations, discussions, telephone calls and similar events – are informal and pass on information that is used straightaway. However, because oral communications leave no record, if something was important it can all too easily be lost. That’s why you need to keep records of what was said. The challenge is to know what you need to record. You should think about when you might need to recall what was said and who might need to know. Don’t trust to your memory unless it is something unimportant.

Most importantly of all, if the oral communication was about a topic that might lead to something more serious (like a disciplinary matter), always make a record just in case.

With a record of an event, record what was said and done. It should be factual and concentrate on the details. If your own emotions or the emotions of the other person affected what was said or done, then include that and rate the impact. Don’t try to guess what someone else was thinking unless that affected what you said or did. For example:

“I thought he was going to hit me so I went behind the counter and called security.”

The purpose of a short record is to let other people who weren’t there know what was said and done, and to explain your words and actions. It is most likely to be needed if a problem has occurred and the conversation or discussions you had were relevant. Write a record as soon as possible while you can still recall what was said and done.