Crimes Act 1900 (NSW): Perjury and false statements

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When a person makes a false statement under oath in a judicial proceeding.
Australia Litigation, Mediation & Arbitration
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This article discusses perjury and false statements under the Crimes Act 1900.

Have you ever been put on the spot during a legal deposition or loan application? We've all been there, scrambling to remember details or tempted to bend the truth a bit. But what happens if that little white lie spirals into a big legal issue?

Sections 327 to 339 of the Crimes Act establish the elements of the crimes of perjury and false statements. Keep reading to learn how to avoid a perjury charge and make sure your statements hold water.

The Offence of Perjury

Section 327 clearly explains what constitutes the offence of perjury under NSW criminal law. It states that any person who in or in connection with any judicial proceeding makes any false statement on oath concerning any matter is guilty of perjury.

This fact or statement must be material to the proceeding and the offender knows that the statement is false or does not believe it to be true.

Penalty: imprisonment for 10 years.

Moreover, a statement can be considered to have been made in connection with a judicial proceeding whether or not a judicial proceeding has commenced, or ever commences, in connection with it. The determination of whether a statement is material to a judicial proceeding that has not commenced is to be made on the basis of any judicial proceeding likely to arise in connection with the statement.

Section 328 of the Act also states that any person who commits perjury intending to procure the conviction or acquittal of any person of any serious indictable offence is liable to imprisonment for 14 years.

Conviction for False Swearing on Indictment for Perjury

Section 329 of the Act provides for an alternative offence to perjury. The rule under this section states that a jury may find someone guilty of a section 330 offence (false statement on oath not amounting to perjury) rather than the charged offence.

In such case, the accused is subject to the punishment under section 330, which is a 5-year imprisonment. This could happen if the jury is not convinced that the accused is guilty of perjury during the trial, but rather satisfied with the evidence that the accused is guilty of an offence under section 330.

Section 330 of the Act pertains to the false statement on oath not amounting to perjury. A person who makes on oath any false statement knowing the statement to be false or not believing it to be true, if it is not perjury, is liable to imprisonment for 5 years.

Perjury and False Statements: Certain Technical Defects Provided For

Another important provision relating to perjury and false statements is section 332. Section 332 points out that the accused is not entitled to an acquittal because of the omission, defect or informality but the following instruments (if otherwise admissible) may be given in evidence and used for all purposes of the trial

  • any affidavit, deposition, examination or declaration offered in evidence is wrongly entitled or otherwise informal or defective, or
  • the jurat to any such instrument is informal or defective,
  • the accused is not entitled to an acquittal because of the omission, defect or informality but the instrument (if otherwise admissible) may be given in evidence and used for all purposes of the trial.

Subornation of Perjury

Generally speaking, subornation is essentially the act of secretly convincing someone to do something wrong, especially something illegal. But it often refers specifically to a legal context: suborning perjury.

Under section 333 of the Crimes Act, the following acts are punishable:

  1. A person who procures, persuades, induces or otherwise causes a person to give false testimony the giving of which is perjury is guilty of subornation of perjury. Penalty: imprisonment for 7 years.
  2. A person who commits subornation of perjury intending to procure the conviction or acquittal of any person of any serious indictable offence is also liable. Penalty: imprisonment for 14 years.

General Provisions Applicable to Perjury and False Statements Offences

What instances are immaterial in relation to the crimes of perjury and false statements offences under this Act? Section 334 enumerates the general provisions applicable to perjury and false statement offences:

  1. whether a statement on oath is given orally or in writing, or
  2. which forms and ceremonies are used in administering the oath (or otherwise binding the person giving the testimony to speak the truth) – as long as the person assents to the forms and ceremonies actually used, or
  3. whether (in the case of a statement made in a judicial proceeding) the judicial tribunal concerned is properly constituted or held in the proper place or not, so long as it actually acts as a judicial tribunal in the proceeding in which the statement is made, or
  4. whether the person who makes the statement is a competent witness or not, or whether the statement is admissible in the proceeding or not, or
  5. In arbitration, it's irrelevant whether the governing law is or isn't New South Wales law.

Reporting and Prosecuting Perjury and False Statements

The NSW Police Force has the responsibility to investigate allegations of perjury. After investigating, NSW Police may send evidence of perjury to the Director of Public Prosecutions. (DPP)

At this point, the DPP will determine whether the offence is prosecutable. Note that, if the NSW Police Force will decline to press charges, the DPP may not choose to prosecute. Under the Crimes Act, there is a restriction as to who initiates the filing of perjury charges. The following entities may initiate to prosecute perjury offences:

  • by the DPP
  • at the direction of the Attorney General
  • Perjury prosecution may be initiated by anyone with leave from the judicial officer of the tribunal involved. If applying for leave to prosecute is impractical, the Supreme Court may authorise prosecution.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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