A “festival of mendacity”; telling the truth no more than a “lifestyle choice”
25 May 2018
Rashid v. Munir et al, Turner J, High Court, Leeds, 22 May 2018 – read judgment here
I promise you that this post will be entirely GDPR-free, despite its date.
Judges go about saying people are lying in different ways, from the tip-toeing around the idea of deceit to the full-blooded blast. This judgment, and that from which it is an appeal, are towards the latter end of the spectrum.
I welcome this frankness; if you, a judge, think that someone is telling you a tissue of lies, then you should say so in terms.
Neither judge held back, as we shall see. Enjoy.
The case was a fight between 4 brothers over the business empire left to them by their father. The claimant (C) had fallen out with the other 3, and brought proceedings to establish (1) his share, and (2) his entitlement to some rents due from the commonly held properties. The first-instance judge found for the C on (1), but against him on (2). C appealed (2).
The background was not conducive to judicial sympathy. The businesses were “fiscally clandestine” – the
details of the operation and profitability of which were but lightly touched upon in the tax returns of the defendants.
The issue on the distribution of profits from the businesses depended on the common intention of the parties. The judge at first instance had found that it was not the common intention that C receive a share of the rents.
But his task was rendered somewhat difficult because he found that the evidence of all of them was “utterly dishonest”.
So, running through the parties before him, the judge said about C
I do not believe him on this or indeed any other material matter.
that 1D gave some evidence which
was, I am sure, untruthful.
2D did no better:
On any view, the second defendant was egregiously dishonest…”.and “in his evidence was…as heroically dishonest as he is in his everyday life.
But 3D took the biscuit: he
gave evidence in a facetious manner, including winking at the claimant’s counsel at one stage, a manner which revealed to me that he regards telling the truth as simply no more than a lifestyle choice.
Turner J, on appeal, did not hold back. As he remarked, it is difficult enough to trying to establish the common but stated intention of people giving honest but conflicting evidence. But
Where, as here, each witness is attempting to outdo the other in a rich display of competitive dishonesty the task of the judge is unenviable.
Turner J thought the judge came to the right conclusion, which
fully reflected what little objective fact he could salvage from the tangled web of deceit which the parties had so enthusiastically weaved when giving their evidence
I am glad to say that it has happened but rarely to me, but you really do know that you have come well second in a case, when not only is your client’s claim dismissed, but also the judge says it should be referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions – typically for investigation as to whether your client has been guilty of perjury.
This is what the first-instance judge did. This does not seem to have been done, so C was perhaps pushing his luck when he appealed. Turner J checked, found that no reference to the DPP had been made, and as he concluded,
That is an omission which this Court intends to put right.
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