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False documents and lying as a fundamental part of human nature

Jonathan Riding | Brighton Solicitors

7th August 2017

It is paradoxical that it is both part of the human condition to lie but also that people want to believe what others say is true.  One of the most popular TED Talks is about how to spot when someone is lying; but even if everyone had those skills, that might still be small comfort to those caught up in litigation where parties to that litigation engage in that most basic of human activities – lying.  It is not ideal to have to reach Trial, potentially at significant cost, and to hope that the Judge gets it right on whether someone is telling the truth or not.

In litigation, contemporaneous documents are very likely to carry more weight than a person’s recollection, because of the Court’s recognition of the unreliability of memory.  That people can honestly believe something which is not true.   With the added complication that some people are quite capable of stating something knowing it not to be true.   Legal costs tend to dramatically increase when a case reaches Trial.  Where there is a question mark over the authenticity of a document, earlier forensic analysis and a tenacious litigation team could make the difference.

False documents, whether they are tampered e-mails, falsified documents, forged signatures, to name a few, present litigators with a host of challenges.  In the recent case of 44 Wellfit Street Limited v GMR Services Limited 2017 the Court had to consider disputed e-mails which Chief Master Marsh described as ‘central to the claim’.  In that case, a convoluted story as to why original electronic versions of the disputed e-mails were unavailable for forensic analysis damaged their credibility.  The Court stating “They were put forward by the Defendant to bolster its case that the Lease and Option are genuine. They have the opposite effect.”  That “the story about forwarding and re-forwarding, followed by the theft of the iPad is an obvious construct that is untrue.  It is clear beyond any doubt the emails have been tampered with and the Defendant’s versions are false.

And to underline the point, the Court had this to say about one of the Defendant’s Directors; ”Furthermore, it is inescapable that [the Director] must have been directly or indirectly involved in the process of falsification and knowingly putting forward evidence that is false.”

Cases involving disputed documents with, potentially, allegations of falsification can and do arise.  The lack of the original e-mails (preventing forensic analysis of meta-data to help prove their authenticity) and general implausibility appears to have damaged the Defendant’s case in the matter above.  Other cases may be less clear cut.

Griffith Smith Farrington Webb LLP have experience of working with some of the UK’s leading forensic document analysts.   If you are involved in a dispute and believe your opponent is relying on false documents, why not contact Jonathan Riding on 01273 384 011 or at to see if we can help?  Jonathan has many years of experience assisting banks, SMEs and HNWs in commercial disputes of all sizes.

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