How far would you go to avoid a speeding fine or demerit points? Lie to authorities? Find a Justice of the Peace to sign a false statement?
According to the Roads and Maritime Service (RMS), a large number of people in NSW are willing to do just that to avoid fines and demerit points.
RMS investigators claim to have uncovered over 2,000 false statutory declarations over a two-and-a-half year period. They believe that a large number of people are driving around on licences that should have been suspended long ago, and they plan to do something about it.
How Does the Scam Work?
People who are issued with traffic infringements notices by the RMS for offences like as speeding and running red light cameras can elect to complete a statutory declaration to the effect that they were not driving at the time, and providing the driver’s name.
Those seeking to avoid a fine and loss of demerit points would fraudulently insert the details of people who are difficult to penalise – such as those living overseas, those who recently passed away or people without a current Australian licence.
This is how Justice Einfeld infamously sought to avoid a fine and loss of demerit points –listing a UK man who had passed away three years beforehand. Einfeld foolishly stuck by his false declaration and even lied in court, leading to convictions for perverting the course of justice and perjury, and a 3 year prison sentence.
But as one of the investigators said in 2013, Einfeld was just the tip of the iceberg.
Who is Involved?
The RMS says that 700 of the false declarations contain the signature of the same Justice Of the Peace (JP). That JP denies signing the documents, contending that his signature was forged.
A Sydney Rabbi has also been implicated in the scheme, although he also denies any misconduct. The RMS claims that he submitted 44 false statutory declarations nominating drivers with overseas licenses. In his case, $5,255 worth of fines was previously declared unrecoverable.
The Law in NSW
Knowingly providing false information in a statutory declaration is a criminal offence under section 25 of the Oaths Act 1900 (NSW),
And as Justice Einfeld found out, those who stick by their lies in court can face further penalties for perjury and perverting the course of justice, which carry maximum penalties of 10 and 14 years imprisonment respectively.
When the potential consequences are so severe, it seems foolish to risk your good character and freedom to avoid the loss of a few demerit points or even a licence suspension.
If you have been charged with making a false declaration, seeing an experienced criminal lawyer at an early stage is often the best course of action.
If you are not guilty, a good lawyer will fight for the case to be dropped or thrown out of court.
If you wish to plead guilty, they will help you prepare for court – including guiding you with an apology letter and character references – and will push for the most lenient outcome.