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Spotting an untruthful witness

Lawyers accept that there is a basic human frailty – that most people can fail to tell the truth at times.  People in any sort of litigation process are especially tempted to put forward their account in as persuasive a light as possible.

Understandably, they wish their case to be preferred by the decision makers in the court – the magistrates, the jury, the district judge etc.  Thus they can embellish facts, modify those facts or even make up their own ‘facts’.

When we are in a trial situation, representing a client, we do not, of course, question our clients truthfulness.  However, we do have considerable professional experience and this enables us to determine, fairly accurately, whether a case going to be persuasive and so is likely to win the day. It is our duty to point out any weak points in the client’s case, and so prepare them for any tough questioning likely to come from the other side.

Taking it that evidence given for the  other side may be completely against our client’s evidence, part of our task is to discover why those other witnesses are telling untruths and to catch them out.

We have to become experienced in sensing when witnesses are not being truthful in their accounts.

Pamela Meyer, the author of Liespotting

Pamela is an expert in deception and has written books upon it. She is regularly used in law-enforcement, the military, in psychology and even in espionage.

At a TED Talk she gives a short but fascinating explanation on:

  • why we lie,
  • how we cooperate in the lying when we are being lied to, and
  • the manners and “hotspots” used by those trained to recognize deception

She says that on any given day we’re lied to between 10 and 200 times….

She goes on to suggest that honesty however is a value worth preserving.

Check out her fascinating talk