Most of us like to think of ourselves as fundamentally honest and decent people. However, an awful lot of people are lying, cheating criminal scumbags who deserve to be forcibly sterilised so that their atrocious genes no longer form an oily slick upon our already shallow gene pool. The problem is that in their own heads, these people genuinely think that they, too, are fundamentally honest and decent – they just ascribe different meanings to those terms in order to maintain the self-deception.

 

As a result, when people apply a slightly warped self-view to the activities of others,
we end up with the situation whereby estate-dwellers actively choose to turn a blind eye to criminal or antisocial activity on the basis that the perpetrator ‘is only acting out’ or ‘was always good to ‘is old mum’ (and I must admit that I’m guilty of the same thing whenever I see clearly under-age kids trying to get served at pubs – I just remember what I was like at
that age and feel that unnatural surge of
nauseous emotion that Lady X tells me is
called ‘sympathy’).

 

The entertainment starts when habitual liars who have previously escaped detection appear in court for the first time. An astonishing number of people genuinely don’t realise how serious court proceedings are until they find themselves in an imposing courtroom surrounded by smartly-dressed lawyers and standing before a judge who has clearly
never smiled in his life. Their brains go into panic mode and, no matter how unconvincing their original statement now sounds in the unflinching legal spotlight, they stick with it, concocting elaborate tales to back up
their story.

A brilliant recent example of this occurred in the recent case of BSkyB v HP Enterprise Services. On the face of it, you wouldn’t expect a case between two companies where one was suing the other for failure to implement a new client relationship technology system to be that interesting. The judgment runs to two thousand three hundred and fifty paragraphs, of which at least two thousand aren’t really worth the effort. But the remaining bits contain a nugget of pure golden gold.

 

Part of BSkyB’s case was that HP committed fraudulent misrepresentation – ie that they lied in order to get the contract in the first place. In order to reach a conclusion, the court had to look at the actions and words of the people involved to see whether BSkyB were right. Unfortunately, as is usual in these matters, the people on both sides of the deal had their own recollection of events which differed on key points. Who should be trusted? Enter Joe Galloway. Joe was the managing director of part of the defendant, and gave a number of witness statements and appeared in person at the trial to support their case.

 

Unfortunately for Joe, as part of his witness statement, he set out his qualifications. These included a statement that “I hold an MBA from Concordia College, St. John’s (1995 to 1996)”. When asked about this in court, he said that he was in St John in the US Virgin Islands and attended Concordia College for approximately a year which involved attendance at classes. He said that he had a diploma or degree certificate and transcripts of his marks, and had been required to attend numerous classes to obtain these.

 

He then went on to say that he attended Concordia College whilst he was working on a project on St John for Coca Cola, and that he travelled to and from St John by plane, flying into and out of the island. He explained that when he attended Concordia College “there were a number of buildings that I went to.
I can remember three distinct buildings that we went to…office block buildings in and around the locations of the commercial area that I was working in for Coca Cola.” Sounds convincing, right? Remember, he was standing up in court saying all of this with a straight face in order to help defend a claim which could run into hundreds of millions of pounds. Surely he wouldn’t be saying all this if all of his statements could be easily proven wrong? Surely?

 

Enter Sky’s barrister. He started off gently, producing witness statements which showed that there was not and never had been a Concordia College & University on St John, there was not, nor ever had been a Coca Cola office or facility on St John, and there was not, nor ever had been an airport on St John and it was not possible to fly onto the island. At this point, Joe may have started to realise that it was not going to be his day. 

 

But this was just the beginning. The barrister then moved up a gear, bringing his dog into the equation. In order to demonstrate that Concordia College was in fact a website which provides on-line degrees for anyone who is prepared to pay for them, he showed the court that he had recently obtained an MBA degree for his dog, Lulu. The best part was that Lulu also received a degree certificate and transcripts which, when presented to the court, turned out to contain better marks than those given to poor Joe. 

 

As you can imagine, after the judge had stopped laughing, he took a very dim view of all of Joe’s other evidence. Among other quotes, the judge noted that ‘[his] credibility was completely destroyed by his perjured evidence’, and he demonstrated ‘an astounding ability to be dishonest’, and ‘a propensity to be dishonest whenever he sees it in his interest’. As judicial slapdowns go, that’s probably going to ensure that Lulu has not only a better degree but significantly better job prospects than Joe for the foreseeable future.