Home > The Monday Musings Column > when did we lose interest in the truth?

when did we lose interest in the truth?

Perhaps I have been a bit slow on the uptake here, but a casual remark led to some serious discussion and some, for me anyway, disturbing thoughts for it seems that in the world today people no longer want the truth, they want their view to prevail regardless of the facts.

I had been hired as an expert witness, to provide my opinion on a set of circumstances and I was comfortable in that role, but there came a point when my view was that there were areas in which my client could have acted to prevent what occured. I can’t discuss specifics, but if I were asked by the opposition I would have had to say that although I did not feel that it was reasonable for them to have acted to prevent the problem, they could have done and, if they had, there would have been a different outcome.

During the discussions around my input one of the lawyers made a comment about it not being about what was true or false, what was right or wrong nor about any facts; it was about winning rather than losing. I got my fee, but was not asked to participate further. I had pretty much forgotten the matter until a call last week to say that it was settled recently.

That news was at the back of my mind when during a lunchtime chat with a friend in the legal profeession the topic of the Grenfell Tower enquiry came up. In the aftermath of that tragedy it is obvious that there are factions who are not in the slightest bit interested in the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. They want things that support their point of view or that can be used to further their own agenda and whilst that sickens me, my greater concern is that we are moving away from the fundamentals of natural justice in general.

I grew up in a country where there was the principle of being tried by your peers and I used to be pretty comfortable in the knowledge that, should I ever find myself in the dock, I could get a fair trial. Over my career I have been part of many appearences in courts and tribunals. Most of these have seen me there as part of the prosecusion and I have given evidence many times, but I have also appeared as a defendant in tribunals, have served on juries and, at the lower end of the scale, sat in judgement at internal disciplinary hearings.

At all of these over a period of around 30 years from the early 1970s that feeling of comfort in the outcome being dependent on the facts, and therefore truth, was central, but the last couple of tribunals that I attended seem, with hindsight, to have seen a drift towards the win not lose value rather any desire for the truth to prevail, more a case of either side not wanting to lose. (Whilst none of the three employment tribunals that I have had to explain the actions of myself and my team at resulted in the plaintiff’s case being upheld I would not claim to have won; there are no winners in those cases as far as I can see).

Now I look at the way things have evolved and I have severe doubts about the possibility of being tried and I would have no confidence in the outcome. The truth has become what social media tells you, the facts are irrelevant unless they support your entrenched position and anyone who dares to take an alternate view is open to abuse and vilification.

Litigation has become a national sport and, according to my legal pal, it iscertainly now all now about winning; the facts and the truth matter little as long as you can beat the opposition. This is the world that we have created, or have stood back and allowed others to create. I don’t like it, but I shall just have to live with it I guess.

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