What is the most polite way to discredit a witness?

In his recent judgment in the case of Cripps v Pool Care Limited [2016] SC (Bda) 111, 20 December 2016, Chief Justice Kawaley awarded damages in the sum of $55,000 to the Plaintiff, Paul Cripps, against the Defendant, a swimming pool construction company, arising out of the defective installation of a swimming pool at a residential property in Tucker’s Town, Bermuda.

The facts of the case are relatively mundane, with no point of law involved.

The Court was simply asked to approach its assessment of the Plaintiff’s claim, and the parties’ evidence, by reference to the burden of proof and the balance of probabilities (in circumstances where the Defendant did not appear to advance a positive case of its own as to the cause of the defects).

Having heard from the Plaintiff and his witnesses, and from the Defendant and its witnesses, the Chief Justice appears to have been in no doubt that the Plaintiff had proved its case to the civil standard of proof (in the absence of a credible explanation from the Defendant as to the likely cause of the defects).

To some extent, the Chief Justice’s findings in favour of the Plaintiff were supported by his assessment of the credibility of the Defendant’s main witness, Mr McHarg, and the adverse inferences that he drew as a result.

The Chief Justice’s comments on Mr McHarg’s (lack of) credibility were politely stated:

Mr McHarg himself was not an altogether convincing witness although he did his best to give his evidence in a straightforward way. He had the somewhat guilty demeanour of a batsman who knew that he had nicked a ball to the wicketkeeper and was hoping that the umpire would not rule that he was out“.

This makes me wonder: what is the most polite way to discredit a witness?

Answers on a postcard please.



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