Grace Shipping v CF Sharp and Co (Malaya) Pte Ltd: PC 10 Dec 1986

(Singapore) When a court has to weigh the various and varying recollections of witnesses about what was said at meetings which occurred in the distant past, the surest guides are the contemporaneous documents and the overall probabilities.
Lord Goff of Chievely discussed the fact finding task of a judge: ‘And it is not to be forgotten that, in the present case, the Judge was faced with the task of assessing the evidence of witnesses about telephone conversations which had taken place over five years before. In such a case, memories may very well be unreliable; and it is of crucial importance for the Judge to have regard to the contemporary documents and to the overall probabilities. In this connection, their Lordships wish to endorse a passage from a judgment of one of their number in Armagas Ltd v. Mundogas S.A. (The Ocean Frost), [1985] 1 Lloyd’s Rep. 1, when he said at p. 57:- ‘Speaking from my own experience, I have found it essential in cases of fraud, when considering the credibility of witnesses, always to test their veracity by reference to the objective facts proved independently of their testimony, in particular by reference to the documents in the case, and also to pay particular regard to their motives and to the overall probabilities. It is frequently very difficult to tell whether a witness is telling the truth or not; and where there is a conflict of evidence such as there was in the present case, reference to the objective facts and documents, to the witnesses’ motives, and to the overall probabilities, can be of very great assistance to a Judge in ascertaining the truth.’
That observation is, in their Lordships’ opinion, equally apposite in a case where the evidence of the witnesses is likely to be unreliable; and it is to be remembered that in commercial cases, such as the present, there is usually a substantial body of contemporary documentary evidence.’
In that context he was impressed by a witness described in the following terms: ‘Although like the other main witnesses his evidence was a mixture of reconstruction and original recollection, he took considerable trouble to distinguish precisely between the two, to an extent which I found convincing and reliable.’ That is so important, and so infrequently done.’


Lord Goff of Chievely


[1987] 1 Lloyd’s Rep 207, [1986] UKPC 57




AdoptedArmagas Ltd v Mundogas SA (‘The Ocean Frost’) CA 1985
Proof of corruption not needed for bribe
In establishing that money was paid as an improper inducement or bribe, proof of corruptness or a corrupt motive was unnecessary.
When a court looks at a decision of a judge at first instance, the court stressed the need to look at the . .

Cited by:

CitedNina Naicker Gow v Dr Rosemary Harker CA 31-Jul-2003
The defendant had taken a blood sample. The claimant asserted that because the needle had been inserted incorrectly she had suffered damage to her wrist.
Held: Guidance from cases involving allegations of fraud could be relevant when assessing . .
CitedSix Continents Hotels Inc v Event Hotels Gmbh QBD 21-Sep-2006
The claimant had licensed the defendant to use its trademarks in connection with the naming of their hotels in Germany. The defendants failed to pay their fees as agreed, the claimants terminated the license and now sought payment under the . .
CitedEarles v Barclays Bank plc Merc 8-Oct-2009
The claimant had lost his claim against the bank, but resisted the amount of costs claimed.
Held: The trial had been of a simple factual dispute, and the bank had failed adequately to disclose electronically held material in its possession. . .
CitedPiper v Hales QBD 18-Jan-2013
The claimant owned a very vauable vintage Porsche racing car. It was hired to the defendant. The car suffered severe mechanical damage whilst being driven, and the insurers declined liability.
Held: The Defendant as hirer was under an . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Litigation Practice, Commonwealth

Updated: 07 June 2022; Ref: scu.185263