When Will Our Judges Speak Out Forcefully Against Perjury?

_DSC4851In yet another British Columbia family law decision, the court fails to denounce, in the strongest terms, a litigant whose testimony is rife with lies. Yes, this judge addresses credibility, but in the same anemic way that permeates most family law cases, namely ” I accept the evidence of the claimant where it differs from the evidence of the respondent.”

That’s it, no rebuke, no censure, not even an award of special costs, despite the litigant’s devious conduct requiring untold extra preparation and court time to present a narrative that is flagrantly false, requiring a robust defence….yes, a rebuttal to a pack of lies.

Ngo v. Do 2017 BCSC 83 focuses on the breakdown of the marriage of a Vietnamese couple who agreed they married and immigrated to Canada in 1994. From that point on the parties’ evidence is sharply divergent.

He said their marriage ended two years later, in 1996, while she maintained they lived together as husband and wife in the family home in East Vancouver until their separation in 2012. When asked where he lived after 1996, since he alleged he did not live with his wife and children,  he was unable to provide a single address, except to say that he lived in East Vancouver with a friend.

When asked to explain how it was that he and his wife added three additional children to their union after his alleged departure in 1996, he acknowledged that despite the shattering of the bonds of matrimony, they remained intimate with one another.

The date of separation was critical to a determination of the wife’s interest in two homes, a crab boat, and a license to catch crab. Ms. Ngo testified their first home was purchased in 2000 and became the family home where she and her husband raised the children, for all but one year of their marriage.  She believed the home was registered in her husband’s name. Not so, said Mr. Do. He testified that the home’s owner was Mr. Den Van Ta, who he said he barely knew, although he had earlier said Den Van Ta was”like a brother” to him.

A second home in Maple Ridge was purchased in 2004, however, Mr. Do said it was purchased by his cousin, Kevin Phan. He testified that he lived with the children in the home from 2004 to 2008 rent-free and that Ms. Ngo was not permitted to live there. Ms. Ngo gave evidence that her husband told her the second home was rented out, but in 2006 he moved the family to the second home for a year, advising her that it was a more convenient location to travel to his employment in Maple Ridge.

Eventually the Maple Ridge home was registered in Mr. Do’s name. He explained that his cousin took pity on him and gifted the property to him in 2007. However, land title documents described the transaction as a cash sale for $445,000, subject to his cousin’s existing mortgage. Mr. Do sold the Maple Ridge home in 2009 netting $145,000 in profit.

Mr. Do’s lucky streak continued. He advised the court that the first home in East Vancouver was later gifted to him by Mr. Den Van Ta. The statement of adjustments described the transfer as a “gift of equity from the seller to the buyer in the amount of $269,000.” He also purchased a vessel and crab license sharing the cost equally with Mr. Den Van Ta, who, no surprise here, later gifted his one-half interest in their crab business to Mr. Do, gratis, for free.

The parties’ two eldest children corroborated Ms. Ngo’s evidence, while Mr. Den Van Ta was called to back up Mr. Do’s version of events with respect to the first home and the crab business. He was less than impressive. Mr. Phan was not called to testify leaving the court to draw an adverse inference.

The outcome? Mr. Do’s evidence was rejected and all the family property was shared equally. However, nowhere does the court suggest that Mr. Do’s perjured testimony is an abuse of process or of such a character as to bring the administration of justice into disrepute. Can anybody reason why Ms. Ngo was not awarded special costs, which is a full reimbursement of every penny she paid to her lawyer to respond to her husband’s pernicious lies? The court’s apparent trivialization of perjury by failing to award  special costs to Ms. Ngo sends a strong message to litigants that perjury is acceptable.

Pulitzer prize-winning author James B. Stewart succinctly writes in “Tangled Webs: How False Statements are Undermining America”: “Our judicial system rests on an honor code: “I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.” Perjury is not acceptable behaviour.”

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

9 thoughts on “When Will Our Judges Speak Out Forcefully Against Perjury?

  1. I agree that the general acceptance of corrupt attitudes, including lying, undermines Canadian civil society and should be taken into consideration by judges when assessing costs. Many people do not even take issues to court because of the injustice of the justice system,

    1. Here’s a BC case also just released, where the wife was reprimanded with special costs for her conduct. Even then, the husband suffered greatly, not to mention the poor child: J.M.C. v. Y.S., 2017 BCSC 59

      1. Wow, this is an exceptional case of fraud and perjury in family law! Hopefully the little boy doesn’t remember and can move on. Here is the correct case name and and a link to the case: J.M.C. v. Y.S., 2015 BCSC 1770 (CanLII). http://canlii.ca/t/glf9h

      2. I was reading the Vancouver Sun newspaper last week and one article felt peculiarly familiar… I came back to this website and found it was the JMC v. YS case back in court again!

        This time another BC judge released his judgment of special costs: http://vancouversun.com/news/local-news/ian-mulgrew-b-c-divorcees-scandalous-and-outrageous-conduct-blasted-by-judge

        A five day costs assessment was required and last week judge Nielson blasted the wife who’s misconduct has no end! In cross referencing the 18-day 2015 trial results, Justice Bernard, the trial judge, noted the Chinese immigrant wife came from a “well-to-do” family who does not want Canadian citizenship. The justice system is a joke to her and the amount awarded to the husband in special costs is just a slap on the wrist to her.

        Her misconduct continued after the trial and was so “scandalous and outrageous,” Justice Bernard said “it must be firmly, clearly, and unequivocally denounced.”

        Aside from making up false claims of abuse, the mother also “expertly” doctored financial documents in an unprecedented forgery.

        In this case, the two judges have spoken out forcefully against her. But still there is no punishment.

  2. You don’t answer your own question. There is no point to swear on statements other than to create the illusion of justice. Liars will lie with impunity, and honest people will pay for being honest. In the end the only reward for honesty is a clear conscience…

  3. Hello Ms. Lang,

    I’ve enjoyed a few of your articles today after stumbling across your website a few clicks ago. (Can’t even remember where or how I got here – the wonders of the internet.)

    In my 40 years in and around the court as a police detective and as a private investigator, I concur that there has always been a great reluctance to prosecute people for perjury. Even if the evidence is overwhelming and irrefutable with no reasonable doubt, perjury charges just never seem to follow.

    In my own case before the Ontario Superior Court, even a forensically proven and secretly made voice recording that conclusively proved perjury wasn’t enough. Indeed, no court ever agreed to listen to the recording lest the judge would then have to find perjury and conspiracy against three witnesses.

    And the three witnesses who perjured themselves just happened to be… lawyers.

    Sometimes the truth just doesn’t matter to the courts when high status persons are in jeopardy.


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