Car crash MP: were his words credible?
A court has convicted British MP Jamie Wallis of driving offences relating to an accident he was involved in last year. The judgement was pretty damning, and I’m not surprised. As soon as I read some words used in court, I felt I was seeing deception.
Describing the accident:
A cat ran out from left to right in front of me. I just instinctively swerved. I didn't think about it. I just swerved to avoid the cat. That's when the collision happened.
Regular readers will know my distrust of the word “just”. When it is used twice to explain some actions, I get suspicious. “Just” can be used to minimise the severity of something or to hide events.
Here, both times he uses it to say the same thing, “I just swerved”. This feels like “just” is in use to play down the actions.
This would also explain the distant language in “that’s when the collision happened” which feels like it comes from an observer of a crash rather than someone who experienced it.
Most of us who drive will have swerved our car at some point without crashing. There is no explanation of how the swerve turned into a collision.
So in this description of the crash, there is a suggestion from the words that the incident is being downplayed and not being described fully.
Explaining why we left the scene:
I noticed a group of people approaching and felt anxious. Due to my medical condition and time of the day and the weather conditions I felt I needed to get away.
I detect more distance here. Why not be direct and say, “a group of people were approaching me and I felt anxious”? Adding “I noticed” gives these words a feel of storytelling more than a remembered experience.
And why three reasons? This reads as if they are words from someone who is not sure the first reason given will be enough to persuade others of how they felt, so they add more reasons in. Once more, the words are not as straightforward as they could be.
Asked if he was going to report the crash:
Absolutely … I fully intended to report the incident.
This sounds like something that could have been answered by a “yes” or a “no”. If we don’t get a “yes” or “no” in the first few words of an answer to a question like this, then it is an indicator of possible deception. “Absolutely” is not a substitute for “yes”.
I also note that, in an effort to persuade us of how much he intended to report the incident, he adds that he “fully” intended to do it. This suggests he has the concept of varying degrees of intention to report the incident. The word “fully” doesn’t change the meaning of the sentence, so why the need to add it in?
I’ve looked at three short extracts of the evidence. There may well be other examples of words that show less indicators of possible deception. However, it’s worth looking at the words of the judge as he delivered his verdict after hearing all the evidence. He said:
I am going to be upfront, I didn't find the defendant credible in the evidence he gave
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