How not to lose credibility as a witness: a case study

The PLP politician, Bermudian MP and former Minister of Public Works, Derrick Burgess recently gave both written and oral evidence to Bermuda’s Commission of Inquiry.

Copies of his witness statement are available online, and Bernews has uploaded video footage of his oral testimony.

It will be for the Commission of Inquiry to form a view, in due course, on the factual accuracy of his evidence, and on the relevance of his political opinions and personal beliefs to the issues under investigation.

As a case study for future potential witnesses, however, whether in civil proceedings or in criminal proceedings, Mr. Burgess’s evidence offers a number of important lessons on how not to lose credibility as a witness.

The list is not exhaustive, but here are a few basic pointers:

  1. Dress appropriately. For men, consider a suit and tie.
  2. Do not insult Counsel. If possible, try not to call Counsel a racist (and if asked by the Tribunal to stop doing so, think about stopping).
  3. Do not insult the Tribunal. If possible, try not to call the Tribunal a biased lynch-mob.
  4. Answer the question when asked to do so. That’s basically the point of giving evidence.

 

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