If you are involved in a judicial proceeding, whether as the defendant or a witness, you will be required to take an oath promising to tell the truth.
If it is later discovered that you did not tell the truth, you can be charged with perjury, a criminal offence that carries harsh penalties.
Listed under section 327 of the Crimes Act, perjury is defined as making a false statement in connection with a judicial proceeding.
Even if the judicial proceeding does not end up going ahead, if you have made a false statement under oath, you can still be charged with perjury.
What does the prosecution have to prove for a perjury charge?
There are a number of different factors the prosecution needs to be able to prove in order for you to be convicted of perjury. These include:
- That you were under oath when you made a statement
- That the statement related to judicial proceedings in some form
- That the statement was related to a matter important to the judicial proceedings
- That the statement was false, and that you knew or had reason to believe that it was not true
In addition, the prosecution also needs to prove that you were the person who committed the perjury offence.
It doesn’t matter what type of oath you were under at the time, if you agreed to be sworn in under that particular oath, it is considered binding for legal purposes.
It also doesn’t matter whether the statement in question was delivered orally, or in writing. Getting someone else to lie on your behalf is also a type of perjury.
What are the possible penalties if you are convicted of perjury?
Under section 327 of the Crimes Act, perjury is punishable by up to 14 years imprisonment if the offence contributed to the acquittal or conviction of someone charged over a serious crime.
The penalties for a conviction of perjury do vary, depending on whether the matter is heard in the local court or the district court.
For example, if the matter is heard in the local court, you may receive a more lenient penalty than if it is heard in the district, or supreme, court.
What are the defences to a charge of perjury?
There are a few defences that can help to increase your chances of a positive outcome in your perjury case.
If you have been charged with perjury, it is important that you seek legal representation to help you defend yourself.
Your criminal lawyer will be able to advise you on the most appropriate defence in your individual circumstances.
Some of the common defences to perjury include demonstrating that the statement you gave was not false in the literal sense, that you genuinely believed it to be true, or that you gave the wrong information because you did not fully understand the question.
If you told what you thought was the truth based on incorrect information provided to you by someone else, this is also a possible line of defence.
Perjury charges can be difficult to prove, as there are so many factors required for a successful conviction.
With the right criminal lawyers, you may be able to have the charges withdrawn, or avoid a conviction altogether.