American Judges Association
Assessing Credibility: The Impact of a Motive to Lie and the Embellishment of Evidence — the Canadian Approach
Date of this Version
Court Review - Volume 58
In R. v. Bowers, the Alberta Court of Appeal suggested that it has been “recognized that the process of assessing credibility cannot be reduced to or confined by legal rules . . . [and] there is no fixed set of rules to use in assessing the credibility of a witness.” 2022 ABCA 149, paras. 39-40 (Can.).
Two exceptions to this general rule involve a witness having a motive to lie and the embellishment of evidence by a witness. In both instances, a witness’s credibility will general be negatively impacted. However, what if the opposite occurs? What if a trial judge concludes that the witness did not embellish their evidence? What if there is no evidence that the witness, particularly a complainant, had a motive to falsely implicate the accused? How are trial judges to deal with these scenarios? These issues have recently been the subject of considerable appellate commentary in Canada, including by the Supreme Court of Canada.
Used by permission.