There can be a temptation, sometimes encouraged by lawyers, to overstate your case.
This is especially true of riding or driving experience, or skill. I have been on the receiving end of it as well as dishing it out in Court, but the inescapable conclusion is that honesty’s always the best policy.
I had a recent trial involving a bike-on-bike crash. The rider I was prosecuting a claim against made heavy weather of his years of riding, and his familiarity with his bike. Fair enough. Until we looked at his online MOT certificates which showed his bike had moved about 300 miles in the last three years. Quite how he managed to crash into my lad on one of his very rare outings was bad luck indeed. And because he had exaggerated his riding experience and been proven wrong by his MOT certificates his credibility collapsed, as did his nerve. He lost.
This case turned on credibility and in litigation when one tells an untruth, it snowballs. His overstatement was unnecessary, and destroyed his credibility. It is of no consequence to the Judge whether you ride 40,000 miles per year or three times per year. On sunny Sundays only. The Court analyses what happens in the split seconds of a collision but more than that, they are very interested in credibility.
Giving evidence on oath is core to how Courts work and breaches of trust are taken very seriously. If you find yourself giving a Court Statement, as a witness or on your own behalf, be fastidious about stating your truth. Not the lawyers’, not your mate’s, but your own. If the case proceeds to trial you will be the one in the witness box, and if you strayed from the path of righteousness you will be the one trying to remember what you constructed. So say what you saw and do not speculate.
I have seen hundreds of people in the witness box, cross-examined hundreds of people and been cross-examined myself three times. It is a lonely experience. The Judge, sitting in their raised position, can see everything that goes on in Court and believe me it is amazing what you notice from that perch.
If a witness is being fed a line the Judge will see it; I have had the truly horrible experience of a Judge asking my opponent to stop asking my client questions because, ‘his father appears to be mouthing the answers to him’. In this case the judge went on to dismiss all of the young lad’s evidence as, ‘It was not his evidence’.
I can also still recall with horror my experience as a young barrister when confronted by video evidence (VHS… I am that old) of my client doing at least three things he told everyone, who would listen, he could never do. His otherwise sound case collapsed, the Judge furious with me, my client and his Solicitor. That was over 20 years ago, but I still get a cold feeling when I think about my client or my witness destroying their own credibility by over egging their evidence.
Bike Magazine September 2019