A judge will be alert to whether witnesses exaggerate or embellish their evidence when deciding whether to rely upon their testimony in a criminal proceeding.

Witnesses must be wary of overstating their evidence. Their testimony should be devoid of the dramatic embellishments that we often use when recounting events informally to our friends and family.

Witnesses who entangle otherwise truthful narratives with exaggeration and embellishment run the risk of having the judge reject their account entirely. For example, if opposing counsel can demonstrate that part of what a witness has said has been embellished, this may compromise a judge's assessment of the accuracy or reliability of the remainder of the witness’s testimony.

A judge may also have serious concerns with respect to the sincerity or truthfulness of witnesses who grossly exaggerate their accounts of past events.

Other considerations:

Judges are alert to instances where a witness may have an ulterior motive to embellish a claim (for example, a police officer exaggerating an accused’s level of aggression to justify the use of force (R. v. Young, [2014] O.J. No. 1290 (C.J.), or a police officer exaggerating legitimate safety concerns to justify an unauthorized search (R. v. Ko, [2011] B.C.J. No. 1576 (S.C.J.)). 

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