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Criminal Lawyers for Corruption of Witnesses or Jurors | Section 321 Crimes Act 1900

Corrupting witnesses or jurors is an offence under section 321 of the Crimes Act 1900.

The maximum penalty for the offence is 10 years in prison, or 14 years where the conduct was intended to procure the conviction or acquittal of any person for a serious indictable offence.

The prosecution is required to prove a number of facts beyond a reasonable doubt in order to establish the offence, and a person is entitled to an acquittal if they are unable to do so.

There are also a number of legal defences available to those who are going to court for the offence.

If you have been charged with corrupting a witness or juror, call Sydney Criminal Lawyers anytime on 02 9261 8881 to arrange a free first conference with an experienced criminal defence lawyer who will review the allegations and advise you of your options and the best way forward.

Read on for more information about corruption of witnesses or jurors, including the offence itself, the matters that the prosecution needs to prove, your options, the available defences and the applicable penalties.

The Law

What is the Offence of Corrupting Witnesses or Jurors?

Corruption of witnesses or jurors is an offence under section 321 of the Crimes Act 1900.

Corrupting a witness

Section 321(1)(a) states that a person is guilty of corrupting a witness if he or she:

  1. Confers procures or offers any benefit on or for any person or attempts to do so, and
  2. Does so intending to influence any person called, or to be called, in judicial proceedings to give false evidence, withhold true evidence or not to attend as a witness, or not produce anything in evidence under a summons or subpoena.

A ‘judicial proceeding’ is one in or before which a judicial tribunal can take evidence under oath.

A ‘judicial tribunal’ is any person, including a coroner or arbitrator, or any court or other body authorised by law or by the consent of parties that may conduct a hearing to determine any matter or thing.

Corrupting a juror

Section 321(1)(b) states that a person is guilty of corrupting a juror if he or she:

  1. Confers procures or offers any benefit on or for any person or attempts to do so,
  2. Does so intending to influence any person, whether or not a particular person, in their conduct as a juror in any judicial proceeding, or not to attend as a juror in any judicial proceeding, and
  3. Intends by doing so to pervert the course of justice.

It is immaterial whether the person who is intended to be influenced had been sworn as a juror at the time of the conduct.

‘Perverting the course of justice’ is defined by section 312 of the Act as, “obstructing, preventing, perverting or defeating the course of justice or the administration of law”.

It includes such conduct as:

  • Attempting to bribe a police or judicial officer to avoid being prosecuted or punished,
  • Falsely swearing or declaring that another person was responsible for an offence
  • Using another person’s phone or email to manufacture a defence to a crime, or
  • Encouraging or bribing another person to plead guilty to a crime they did not commit, or to provide a false alibi, or give false testimony in court.

Benefitting from corrupting a witness

Section 321(2)(a) states that a person is guilty of benefitting from corrupting a witness if he or she:

  1. Solicits accepts or agrees to accept any benefit for him or herself or for another, and
  2. Does so in order for a witness in judicial proceedings to give false evidence, or withhold true evidence, or not attend as a witness, or not produce anything in evidence under a summons or subpoena.

Benefitting from corrupting a juror 

Section 321(2)(b) states that a person is guilty of benefitting from corrupting a juror if he or she:

  1. Solicits accepts or agrees to accept any benefit for him or herself or for another,
  2. Does for him or herself as a juror in judicial proceedings or for any other person who is a juror in judicial proceedings to do or not do anything related to those proceedings, or to not attend those proceedings, and
  3. Intends by doing so to pervert the course of justice.

What are the Penalties?

The maximum penalty for corrupting witnesses or jurors is 10 years in prison or 14 years where the conduct was intended to procure the conviction or acquittal of any person for a serious indictable offence (which is an offence that carries a maximum penalty of 5 years or more in prison).

However, is important to bear in mind that this is the maximum sentence that can be imposed, and that the court can apply any of the following penalties for the offence:

What Does the Prosecution Have to Prove?

It is important to bear in mind that, at all times, the prosecution bears the onus of establishing each element of the specific offence under section 321 beyond all reasonable doubt.

Corrupting a witness

For a person to be found guilty of corrupting a witness under section 321(1)(a), the prosecution must establish each of the following ‘elements’ (or ingredients) of the offence beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. The defendant conferred, procured or offered any benefit on or for any person or attempted to do so, and
  2. The defendant did so intending to influence any person called, or to be called, in judicial proceedings to give false evidence, withhold true evidence or not to attend as a witness, or not produce anything in evidence under a summons or subpoena.

A ‘judicial proceeding’ is one in or before which a judicial tribunal can take evidence under oath.

A ‘judicial tribunal’ is any person, including a coroner or arbitrator, or any court or other body authorised by law or by the consent of parties that may conduct a hearing to determine any matter or thing.

The prosecution will fail if it cannot prove each of these elements to the required standard.

Corrupting a juror

For a person to be found guilty of corrupting a juror under section 321(1)(b), the prosecution must establish each of the following ‘elements’ (or ingredients) of the offence beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. The defendant conferred, procured or offered any benefit on or for any person or attempted to do so,
  2. The defendant did so intending to influence any person, whether or not a particular person, in their conduct as a juror in any judicial proceeding, or not to attend as a juror in any judicial proceeding, and
  3. The defendant intended by doing so to pervert the course of justice.

It is immaterial whether the person intended to be influenced had been sworn as a juror at the time of the conduct.

‘Pervert the course of justice’ is defined by section 312 of the Act as: “obstructing, preventing, perverting or defeating the course of justice or the administration of law”.

It includes such conduct as:

  • Attempting to bribe a police or judicial officer to avoid being prosecuted or punished,
  • Falsely swearing or declaring that another person was responsible for an offence
  • Using another person’s phone or email to manufacture a defence to a crime, or
  • Encouraging or bribing another person to plead guilty to a crime they did not commit, or to provide a false alibi, or give false testimony in court.

Benefitting from corrupting a witness

For a person to be found guilty of benefitting from corrupting a witness  under 321(2)(a), the prosecution must establish each of the following ‘elements’ (or ingredients) of the offence beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. The defendant solicited, accepted or agreed to accept any benefit for yourself or another, and
  2. The defendant did so in order for a witness in judicial proceedings to give false evidence, or withhold true evidence, or not attend as a witness, or not produce anything in evidence under a summons or subpoena.

Benefitting from corrupting a juror

For a person to be found guilty of benefitting from corrupting a juror under 321(2)(b), the prosecution must establish each of the following ‘elements’ (or ingredients) of the offence beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. The defendant solicited, accepted or agreed to accept any benefit for him or herself or another person,
  2. The defendant did so for him or herself as a juror in judicial proceedings or for any other person who is a juror in judicial proceedings to do or not do anything related to those proceedings, or to not attend those proceedings, and
  3. The defendant intended by doing so to pervert the course of justice.

What are the Defences?

In addition to the requirement to prove each element of the offence, the prosecution must also disprove any of the following defences if properly raised:

  • Duress, which is where you were threatened or coerced,
  • Necessity, where the act was necessary to avert danger, and
  • Self-defence, where you engaged in the act to defend yourself or another

It must disprove any such defences beyond all reasonable doubt.

Your Options in Court

Pleading Not Guilty

It is important to bear in mind that the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt always rests on the prosecution, and that the prosecution must disprove any valid legal defence raised on the evidence before the court.

Corrupting a witness

Before you can be found guilty of corrupting a witness under 321(1)(a), the prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt that:

  1. You conferred, procured or offered any benefit on or for any person or attempted to do so, and
  2. You did so intending to influence any person called, or to be called, in judicial proceedings, give false evidence, withhold true evidence or not to attend as a witness, or not produce anything in evidence under a summons or subpoena.

There are a number of ways to defend a charge of corrupting a witness, including raising the fact that:

  1. The prosecution cannot prove you conferred, procured or offered any benefit on or for any person or attempted to do so,
  2. The prosecution cannot prove did so intending to influence any person called, or to be called, in judicial proceedings,
  3. The prosecution cannot prove any such influence was intended to get them to give false evidence, withhold true evidence or not to attend as a witness, or not produce anything in evidence under a summons or subpoena, or
  4. A valid legal defence is available which the prosecution is unable to disprove beyond a reasonable doubt.

If any of these matters prevail, you must be found not guilty of the offence.

A good lawyer will be able to make written submissions to the prosecution with a view to having the case against you withdrawn, or fight to have it thrown out of court if it proceeds to a defended hearing or trial.

Corrupting a juror

Before you can be found guilty of corrupting a juror under 321(1)(b), the prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt that:

  1. You conferred, procured or offered any benefit on or for any person or attempted to do so,
  2. You did so intending to influence any person, whether or not a particular person, in their conduct as a juror in any judicial proceeding, or not to attend as a juror in any judicial proceeding, and
  3. You intended by doing so to pervert the course of justice.

There are a number of ways to defend a charge of corrupting a juror, including raising the fact that:

  1. The prosecution cannot prove you conferred, procured or offered any benefit on or for any person or attempted to do so,
  2. The prosecution cannot prove that if you did the above, you did not do so intending to influence any person, whether or not a particular person, in their conduct,
  3. The prosecution cannot prove that any conduct you intended to influence was in relation to as a juror in any judicial proceeding, or not to attend as a juror in any judicial proceeding,
  4. The prosecution cannot prove that, through your conduct, you intended to pervert the course of justice, or
  5. A valid legal defence is available which the prosecution is unable to disprove beyond a reasonable doubt.

If any of these matters prevail, you must be found not guilty of the offence.

Benefitting from corrupting a witness

Before you can be found guilty of benefitting from corrupting a witness under 321(2)(a), the prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt that:

  1. You solicited, accepted or agreed to accept any benefit for yourself or another, and
  2. You did so in order for a witness in judicial proceedings to give false evidence, or withhold true evidence, or not attend as a witness, or not produce anything in evidence under a summons or subpoena.

There are a number of ways to defend a charge of benefitting from corrupting a witness, including raising the fact that:

  1. The prosecution cannot prove you solicited, accepted or agreed to accept any benefit for yourself or another,
  2. The prosecution cannot prove the purpose of any such benefit was for a witness in judicial proceedings to give false evidence or withhold true evidence, or not attend as a witness, or not produce anything in evidence under a summons or subpoena, or
  3. A valid legal defence is available which the prosecution is unable to disprove beyond a reasonable doubt.

If any of these matters prevail, you must be found not guilty of the offence.

Benefitting from corrupting a juror

Before you can be found guilty of benefitting from corrupting a juror under 321(2)(b), the prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt that:

  1. You solicited, accepted or agreed to accept any benefit for him or herself or another person,
  2. You did so for yourself as a juror in judicial proceedings or for any other person who is a juror in judicial proceedings to do or not do anything related to those proceedings or to not attend those proceedings, and
  3. You intended by doing so to pervert the course of justice.

There are a number of ways to defend a charge of benefitting from corrupting a juror, including raising the fact that:

  1. The prosecution cannot prove you solicited, accepted or agreed to accept any benefit for him or herself or another person,
  2. The prosecution cannot prove the purpose of any such benefit was for yourself as a juror in judicial proceedings or for any other person who is a juror in judicial proceedings to do or not do anything related to those proceedings or to not attend those proceedings, and
  3. The prosecution cannot prove you intended by doing so to pervert the course of justice.
  4. A valid legal defence is available which the prosecution is unable to disprove beyond a reasonable doubt.

If any of these matters prevail, you must be found not guilty of the offence.

Pleading Guilty

Where the prosecution evidence is very strong, you may decide to plead guilty to the offence.

In that case, your lawyer may be able to negotiate the police ‘facts’ to reduce the seriousness of the offence.

Your lawyer can also guide you on obtaining materials that can be handed up to the court during your sentencing – including a letter of apologycharacter references and any documents from counsellors or health care professionals you have consulted.

These materials, together with persuasive verbal submissions by your lawyer in the courtroom, can help to ensure you receive the most lenient penalty that is possible in the circumstances.

By pleading guilty at an early stage, you will also be entitled to a ‘discount’ of up to 25% on your sentence – which can lead to a less serious type of penalty being imposed; for example, a section 10 dismissal or a conditional release order rather than a more serious penalty.

You will also be spared the time, expense and stress of a defended hearing or trial.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a ‘Judicial Tribunal’?

A ‘judicial tribunal’ is any person, including a coroner or arbitrator, or any court or other body authorised by law or by the consent of parties, which may conduct a hearing to determine any matter or thing.

This is a broad definition that applies to all courts, tribunals, arbitrations, commissions, and the coroner’s court.

What are ‘Judicial Proceedings’?

A ‘judicial proceeding’ is any proceeding in or before a judicial tribunal in which evidence may be taken on oath.

What is the Definition of ‘Pervert the Course of Justice’?

Section 312 of the Crimes Act defines ‘pervert the course of justice’ as ‘obstructing, preventing, perverting or defeating the course of justice or the administration of the law’.

What Conduct May Amount to Perverting the Course of Justice?

Examples of perverting the course of justice may include:

  • Attempting to bribe a police or judicial officer to avoid being prosecuted or punished,
  • Falsely swearing or declaring that another person was responsible for an offence
  • Using another person’s phone or email to manufacture a defence to a crime, or

Encouraging or bribing another person to plead guilty to a crime they did not commit, or to provide a false alibi, or give false testimony in court.

What is a Serious Indictable Offence?

The maximum penalty for an offence under section 321 increases to 14 years in prison where the prosecution is able to establish that the conduct was intended to procure the conviction or acquittal of any person for a serious indictable offence.

A serious indictable offence is one which carries a maximum penalty of at least 5 years in prison.

Why Choose Sydney Criminal Lawyers®?

Going to court can be nerve-racking, but having a strong and compassionate legal team behind you can make the experience significantly easier to deal with. Here are 12 reasons to choose our multi-award winning legal team:

  1. Proven Track Record of Exceptional Results

    Sydney Criminal Lawyers® consistently achieves outcomes which are in the highest percentile of the Judicial Commission’s sentencing statistics for criminal cases.

    Our legal team devises effective case-strategies and fights hard to have cases dropped entirely or charges downgraded – saving clients the time, expense and stress of a defended hearing or jury trial.

    Where cases nevertheless proceed, our lawyers have an outstanding track record of winning defended Local Court hearings, and complex jury trials in the District and Supreme Courts.

    We also consistently win appeals in the District and Supreme Courts (including the NSWCCA) after clients have received unsatisfactory results with other law firms in the lower courts.We are one of the few firms to achieve successful criminal law appeals in the High Court of Australia.

    Where our clients wish to plead guilty, we frequently achieve ‘dismissals’ and ‘non convictions’ in cases where other lawyers have advised there is no chance of doing so.

  2. Highest Level of Client Satisfaction

    We have the best and most comprehensive client review record of any law firm in Australia.

    Regular communication, accessibility and quality service are our team’s highest priorities.

    We are committed to thoroughly explaining all steps involved in the criminal law process, providing regular updates throughout the proceedings, and making ourselves accessible and responsive.

    We are passionate about providing an exceptional level of service to our clients, and we fight hard to achieve optimal results in the shortest period of time.

  3. Australia’s Most Awarded Criminal Law Firm

    We have received more awards and accolades than any other criminal law firm in Australia. Our team has been awarded “Criminal Defence Firm of the Year in Australia” in a number of prestigious and competitive awards programs for several years running.

    The awards recognise our exceptional track record of results, our outstanding client service, the high level of satisfaction we achieve, the affordability of our services and our overall excellence.

  4. Fixed Fees

    We want our clients to know exactly how much their cases will cost from the very start. That’s why we were the first criminal law firm in Australia to publish ‘fixed fees’, back in 2004.

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  5. Free First Appointment

    For those who are going to court, we offer a free first conference of up to an hour with one of our Senior Criminal Defence Lawyers.

    We also offer a free first conference to those who have received an unsatisfactory result after being represented in court by another law firm, or after representing themselves, and wish to appeal.

  6. Specialist Lawyer Guarantee

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  7. All NSW Courts

    From Bombala to Broken Hill, our lawyers appear in courts throughout New South Wales – and across Australia for Commonwealth cases.

    And we offer fixed fees for most criminal and traffic law cases throughout the state.

  8. Accredited Specialists

    Our entire firm is exclusively dedicated to criminal law – which makes us true specialists.

    All of our lawyers have years of experience representing clients in criminal cases, and our principal has been certified by the Law Society of NSW as an Accredited Criminal Law Specialist since 2005.

    An ‘Accredited Specialist’ is a lawyer who has practised for at least 5 years in a particular field of law (such as criminal law), has passed a rigorous assessment process conducted by the Law Society of NSW, and has been selected by the Specialist Accreditation Committee of the Law Society as an expert in the field.

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    Our team is passionate about achieving results, and unlike many other law firms, our lawyers do not have monthly financial ‘budgets’ to meet.

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  10. Team of Lawyers Behind You

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  11. Familiar with Magistrates and Judges

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  12. Convenience

    We have offices in locations across the Sydney Metropolitan Area and beyond, including:

    • the Sydney CBD, on Castlereagh Street, directly opposite Downing Centre Court,
    • Liverpool, directly opposite Liverpool Local Court, and
    • Parramatta, near the justice precinct.

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    If you are going to court and wish to arrange a free first consultation, call our 24 hour hotline on (02) 9261 8881 or send us an email at info@sydneycriminallawyers.com.au.

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