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Using a False Official Instrument to Pervert the Course of Justice

Using a false official instrument to pervert the course of justice is an offence under section 318(3) of the Crimes Act 1900, which carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.

To establish the offence, the prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt that:

  1. You used an instrument
  2. You knew it was a false official instrument, or you knew it was a copy of a false official instrument
  3. You intended by doing so to induce another to accept the instrument as genuine, or to accept the copy as that of a genuine official instrument, and
  4. You intended by that acceptance to pervert the course of justice.

An ‘official instrument’ is one that is made or issued by a person in his or her capacity as a public officer or by a judicial tribunal.

A ‘public officer’ is one that has any power, authority, duty or function conferred by any level of Australian government, or under delegation by any level of Australian government.

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.

A ‘false document’ is one that purports to have been:

  1. Made in a form or in terms by a person who did not make it in that form or in those terms
  2. Made in a form or in terms, or altered in any way on authority, by a person who did not authorise it or did not exist, or
  3. Made or altered on an incorrect date or at an incorrect place

‘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”

Defences to the charge include:

  1. Duress, and
  2. Self-defence, including the defence of another.

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