Blackpool FC: Judge places '˜reliance' on Belokon's evidence
In summing up the case, Justice Marcus Smith made some very telling remarks about the three protagonists, Karl and Owen Oyston and Valeri Belokon
On VALERI BELOKON
Mr Belokon was an affable witness, who gave his evidence with the assistance of an interpreter.
Although Mr Belokon’s English was undoubtedly good – indeed, outstanding for conversational purposes – it rapidly became clear when he came to give evidence that Mr Belokon’s original plan of giving evidence in English, with occasional interpreter support, lost a great deal of the nuance that Mr Belokon was trying to convey.
I consider that Mr Belokon gave his evidence honestly.
He was very clear when he could not remember something; and equally clear when – a document, for example – might have passed under his nose with only the broadest of explanations as to what was going on.
Mr Belokon was, as I accept, a busy businessman, with multiple interests, who delegated the detail and outlined what he wanted his staff to achieve.
Because Mr Belokon was clear in demarcating what he knew as opposed to what his staff knew, I consider that I can place considerable reliance on what, strategically, Mr Belokon thought he was achieving in his dealings with the Oystons.
Of course, whether his subjective intentions were in fact realised in the communications crossing the line between the Belokon Side and the Oyston Side is an altogether different matter, which goes to the heart of the issues that were before me.
Mr Karl Oyston was an argumentative witness, who gave speeches rather than answering questions. I found him generally incapable of answering a question straightforwardly.
He had a marked tendency, not to give evidence, but to advocate.
This was not aided by the fact that his actual recollection of events was extremely poor.
Although, therefore, I consider that he sought to tell the truth as he saw it, he was an unimpressive witness, and I cannot place very much weight on his evidence.
As a person, Mr Karl Oyston seemed to me to be a forceful character, capable of firm and probably harsh leadership.
When crossed, he could react badly and be quite rude, as his documentary exchanges with Mr Malnacs show. Fundamentally, however, it was not he, but his father, who set the strategic direction for Blackpool FC (and, indeed, for the Oyston Group as a whole), with Mr Karl Oyston implementing the strategy determined upon by Mr Owen Oyston.
To this extent, Mr Karl Oyston was subordinate.
On OWEN OYSTON
Mr Owen Oyston is a successful businessman and a devoted fan of Blackpool FC. I accept that, over the years, he has put a great deal of his time and money into Blackpool FC, to the club’s very considerable benefit. Mr Owen Oyston is capable of great charm, which he is perfectly capable of deploying to secure his own ends. He was an extremely courteous witness. Like Mr. Karl Oyston, his evidence to me contained substantial elements of advocacy,
and many of his answers to Mr. Green Q.C.’s questions were long and basically unresponsive to the question being posed.
Mr Oyston also showed a capacity for embellishing his evidence with detail which appeared nowhere in his witness statement. I am quite sceptical as to the evidential worth of such embellishment.
As with Mr. Karl Oyston, I am prepared to accept that Mr Owen Oyston was doing his best to assist the court. As a rule of thumb, however, recollection does not improve over time, but is rather degraded as a witness tries, iteratively, to work out what his recollection actually is.
I consider that Mr Owen Oyston’s memory suffered in this way.
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