How not to answer the tribunal

One of the things that will happen at a hearing is that you will be asked questions by the tribunal.

The best way of answering them is to be simple, concise and direct. In fact, this is really the only proper way of answering.

There are, however, any number of bad ways of answering. Here are some:

The Politician

Ms Smith, did you put your grievance in writing?

It was totally unreasonable the way they handled the problem. I never got invited to a meeting and nobody asked me about what had happened.

Any politician worth his salt knows that you don’t answer the question you were asked, you answer the one you’d like to have been asked.

This really doesn’t work in tribunals.

The Politician knows that his job is to get his message out to the public, regardless of the interviewer’s attempts to interfere. He doesn’t need or want, much less expect, to convince his interviewer of anything. He isn’t really talking to the interviewer at all.

In a hearing, you are trying to convince the tribunal of your case. You cannot do so by ducking their questions.

The Teenager

On a Monday morning in London Central…
Mr Smith, I’m surprised that this hasn’t been sorted out before this hearing. I see that an order was sent out some time ago.

Well, Sir, I’m afraid I was away when that letter arrived.

When did you first see it?

Last week.

When last week?


So you’ve know about it for 7 days?

It is a good general rule to deal with any bad news in a tribunal by getting it out and dealt with as quickly as possible. This is particularly true in the context of tribunal questions.

Everybody finds it annoying to receive evasive and partial answers to questions. And everybody finds it irritating to have to drag information out of someone piece by piece.

It is always worth assuming that your tribunal is clever and experienced. They have probably heard most, if not all, of the variations on the exchange above. And the Chair spent or spends his professional life cross-examining evasive witnesses. Partial and evasive answers will almost always be spotted for what they are.

The Boss

Mr Smith, can you tell us what you say about the s98A point?
I’ll be dealing with that point later in my submissions, Sir.

This is just counterproductive.

There are two reasons for this. Firstly, refusing to answer the question will probably annoy the tribunal. Nobody likes being ignored or rebuffed.

Secondly, if the tribunal is asking the question they are interested in the answer. It is much better to deal with the point while they are interested, rather than put them off.

It is also worth bearing in mind that the tribunal is in charge of the hearing. If they want to deal with a particular issue in a a particular way or at a particular time, then that is what will happen. Very occasionally it is worth fighting them (as politely as possible), but these situations are rare.

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