Judges accept or reject a witness's testimony by asking
themselves 2 questions. Is the witness credible (i.e. is the
witness telling the truth as the witness recalls it)? If the
witness is credible, is the testimony reliable (i.e. is the witness
able to make an accurate observation or recall or describe the
Judges often review factors that would indicate that a
witness' testimony may be unreliable or untruthful. For
example, they may note that the witness' evidence conflicts
with another document, contradicts what the witness previously
said, or demonstrates favouritism or bias. They may then say:
"when this witness' testimony differs from other
testimony, the other testimony is preferred." Judges usually
refrain from commenting on credibility directly.
However, occasionally a witness' lies are just so obvious
that a judge has to comment. In Wilson v. Semon, a 2014 Ontario
Superior Court of Justice decision, the judge could not restrain
Judgment Debtor Examination
The creditor was attempting to examine the judgment debtor in
aid of execution. The creditor was having problems; the debtor was
not cooperating. The lack of cooperation was so bad that she had
been sentenced to, and served, 30 days in prison for contempt of
court. She then re-attended at an examination in aid of execution
and, at the creditor's request, was brought before the same
motions judge for the 5th time.
The debtor knew that she was in trouble when the lead-in to the
reasons for decision stated,
"If it was not clear before (which I believe it was), it
can now be stated beyond any doubt that Ms. Semon is a liar. She
has misled counsel for the Applicant throughout this process about
where her money is and where and to whom she has sent it. She has
also misled the court, and has demonstrated that her previous
apologies to the court for her actions were altogether
The judge then went on to describe in graphic detail all the
instances in which the debtor lied in her examinations. One of the
reasons why she lied, she said, was because she did not want to
jeopardise other business opportunities by telling the truth. In
other words, the court noted, she did it for the money.
The judge would have been more than happy to throw the debtor
back into jail, but he was concerned that this would be of little
assistance to the creditor. The judge asked the creditor's
lawyer what he wanted. The lawyer replied that he "wants one
full, honest, and fair examination of (the debtor)."
The judge therefore ordered, as suggested, that the debtor
attend for examination in aid of execution to be held before a
Master of the Superior Court. Normally, these examinations are
simply held in a reporter's office. The judge hoped, perhaps
vainly, that the presence of a judicial officer during the
examination might have some small impact on the debtor's
attitude towards the truth.
The judge's expectation of a full, honest, and fair
examination was not high. He noted that he had remain seized of the
matter during the various motions that the creditor had to bring.
However, this time he stated "at a certain point it is
necessary to hand the matter over to a new set of eyes. I believe
that time has come. Accordingly, if there is a need for any further
court appearance in this case (after the examination in front of
the Master as set out above), I will not be seized."
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