Roberts' Anatomy Of A Witness

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 14 July, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 14 July, 1996, 12:00am


The former Chief Justice, Sir Denys Roberts, clearly has too much time on his hands. His latest despatch from Brunei, where he is sitting, takes out five pages of Hong Kong lawyers' rag The New Gazette, where he waxes lyrical about the thought processes judges use to determine whether the person standing before the bench is a congenital liar or the real McCoy.

Among his choice homilies: 'If a witness says that he remembers clearly what happened as long as three years ago, he is a rogue or a liar, he has probably been coached by his solicitor or by a police officer.' Sir Denys, readers may recall, retired in 1988 saying: 'I received the Judiciary in good health in 1979 and I leave it in 1988 with virtually nothing achieved, save that to my credit I leave two tennis courts fully restored.' Now, the learned judge also offers an opinion on physical attributes which have a bearing on the credibility of a witness.

Like the mouth, for example.

'A protruding mouth shows neglect by a parent or guardian, leading to a hostile attitude towards anyone over 50.

'The open mouth suggests a blocked nose or a smoker's chest.

'It hints at a poor standard of personal hygiene or a high degree of self-indulgence. Either reduces the reliability.' If only Sir Denys listened to his own advice about an open mouth . . .