Getting a witness to repeat a story multiple times will almost always produce an ‘inconsistency’

This proposition is obvious, and the resultant ‘inconsistency’ does not demonstrate that the witness is lying. The popular example used by Irving Younger of Max Steuer’s cross-examination in the Triangle Shirt Waist Factory fire case is a case in point: the witness there may well have fabricated her evidence, but it is self-evidently not always the case that an ‘inconsistency’ is an indicator that thw whole story is made up.

Nevertheless, particularly in immigration, decision-makers all too often seize on tiny ‘inconsitencies’ which only arise because the applicant has been forced to repeat his or her narrative multiple times over many years.

In W375/01A v Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs [2002] FCA 379; 67 ALD 757 at [15] the Full Court observed:

As anyone with even a passing familiarity with litigation will know, to have to give a decision-maker three or more separate versions of the basis for a claim is an invidious position to find oneself in, even in the case of an honest witness. All the more so when the accounts have been provided by a person who speaks no English and who has required the assistance of an interpreter. It is inevitable that each version will be slightly different, and may even be very different once the impact of the interpreter is taken into account.

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