“A rich display of competitive dishonesty”: Judge condemns parties for “festival of mendacity”

Leeds: Tangled web of deceit

A High Court judge has described a case as “a festival of mendacity” in which every witness was “attempting to outdo the other in a rich display of competitive dishonesty”.

At first instance, His Honour Judge Davy QC had condemned one defendant’s evidence for being “as heroically dishonest as he is in his everyday life”.

Another defendant, the circuit judge continued, “gave evidence in a facetious manner, including winking at the claimant’s counsel at one stage, a manner which revealed to me that he regards telling the truth as simply no more than a lifestyle choice”.

Mr Justice Turner in Leeds said he would make sure that HHJ Davy’s call to send a copy of his judgment to the Director of Public Prosecutions was seen through.

The claimant and the three defendants in Rashid v Munir & Ors [2018] EWHC 1258 (QB) were brothers whose father on his death had left a business empire that included a number of properties.

Turner J recounted: “It was the second defendant who assumed de facto control of the relevant businesses the details of the operation and profitability of which were but lightly touched upon in the tax returns of the defendants.

“For many years, the central role of the claimant in this fiscally clandestine organisation was that of employee of Girlington Motors Limited of which the first and second defendants were the director and shareholders. The properties were held by the brothers in various legal shares as joint owners.”

In 2012, the claimant started the process of serving notices of severance, a move the judge said proved to be unpopular with his brothers. He was sacked from his job, which led to an employment tribunal claim settled “upon the payment of a substantial sum”.

The outstanding issue was the extent of the claimant’s interest in the properties and his entitlement, if any, to a share in the rental payments received over the years.

HHJ Davy decided that he was entitled to assert beneficial claims in respect of each property in accordance with his legal title, but concluded that it had not been the common intention of the brothers that the claimant should receive rent. The claimant appealed.

Turner J found the arrangements between the brothers to be “unorthodox”, adding that “the judge’s task was made no easier by the fact that he found that the evidence of all of them was utterly dishonest”.

He continued: “Attempting to establish the common but unstated intention of a group of individuals all giving honest but conflicting evidence is difficult enough.

“Where, as here, each witness is attempting to outdo the other in a rich display of competitive dishonesty the task of the judge is unenviable.

“Notwithstanding these challenges, I am satisfied that the judge applied the correct legal test and reached a conclusion which fully reflected what little objective fact he could salvage from the tangled web of deceit which the parties had so enthusiastically weaved when giving their evidence.”

He concluded: “The judge’s conclusions that the claimant was not entitled to claim a share of the commercial rents generated from the properties was unassailable and this appeal is dismissed.”

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