Is There a Defence Against a Charge of Perverting the Course of Justice?

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Justice statue face

There are a number of offences that are categorised as public justice offences under the Crimes Act 1900. Perverting the course of justice is just one of these offences, and it comes with serious penalties. Other public justice offences include contempt of court, and interference with witnesses or judicial officials.

What is perverting the course of justice?

Perverting the course of justice is when a person carries out any act that is intended to pervert the course of justice. This offence is intended to help preserve the integrity of the criminal justice system, and deter people from interfering in its administration. Perverting the course of justice is a broad definition, which can include a number of different behaviours, including interfering with the legal process, intimidating or threatening witnesses and judicial officials, and using a false instrument to persuade the court to make a particular decision.

What are the defences to perverting the course of justice?

There are a few defences that can be effective against a charge of perverting the course of justice. The outcome of a case will strongly depend on the strength of the evidence against you. Part of the process of defending yourself against any charge will involve finding weaknesses in the prosecution’s case, and pointing them out to the magistrate or judge.

Some defences to perverting the course of justice include where there was a genuine mistake or error on your part, and you didn’t intend to mislead the judge or court. If you can prove this, you may be able to successfully prove your innocence against your charge.

How can I get a lesser penalty for this charge?

If you have been charged with perverting the course of justice, the outcome will depend on a number of different factors. When deciding whether or not someone is guilty of a justice offence, and how serious the penalty should be, the court will take certain things into consideration including:

  • How serious the attempt to pervert the course of justice was and the severity of the offence it was concerning.
  • Whether violence was used or threatened as part of the offence.
  • The motive of the offence. If it was perceived that the offence was committed out of greed or a wish for personal gain, this will be looked on more harshly than other motivations, such as family ties or fear of intimidation.
  • The level of interference in the justice process and whether attempts were made to interfere with judges or judicial officials.

The penalties for perverting the course of justice depend on the exact nature of the offence, but include hefty prison sentences. Threatening witnesses for example comes with a maximum penalty of seven years in prison, while using a false instrument attracts a maximum sentence of 14 years.

There are a number of different factors that will be assessed by the judge or magistrate before sentencing. If you can reduce the severity of the offence, you should be able to get a less harsh penalty, even if you decide to plead guilty.

Perverting the course of justice is a potentially serious criminal offence and penalties can be harsh if you are found guilty. Make sure you seek legal advice if you have been charged with a public justice offence so that you can prepare the strongest possible case.

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Ugur Nedim

Ugur Nedim

Ugur Nedim is an Accredited Criminal Law Specialist with 25 years of experience as a Criminal Defence Lawyer. He is the Principal of Sydney Criminal Lawyers®.

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