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  • Home Resources & Technical Articles Criminal Offence Topics (A to Z) Perjury Offences Perjury Offences and Penalties in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT)

    Perjury Offences and Penalties in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT)

    In the ACT, perjury is a serious offence because of the negative effect it has on the administration of the law. As such, the crime of perjury comes with severe penalties that can adversely change the offender's life. The Criminal Code 2002 (ACT) spells out the various perjury offences in the ACT.

    In this article, we will be defining the offence of perjury according to the Criminal Code 2002 (ACT). Also, we will be considering the penalties and other essential aspects of perjury.

    But before taking a look at these areas, there is a need to define some key terms. Consequently, this will give us a better understanding of the areas we will discuss after that.

    It is important to note that there could be slight differences in what constitutes a perjury offence in the ACT and the other jurisdictions in Australia. Hence, what applies in the ACT might not apply in the other states.

    If an individual is convicted in an ACT court for a Perjury offence, the offence will show up as a disclosable court outcome (DCO) on a criminal background check in the ACT.

    The offence will be disclosed on a criminal history check in accordance with the Spent Convictions Scheme in the ACT.

    Legal Proceeding

    Legal proceeding refers to a court trial. According to Section 701 of the Criminal Code 2002 (ACT), a legal proceeding refers to any proceeding where judicial powers are exercised.

    Also, under this section, a legal proceeding has to do with anything the law states to be a legal proceeding. Specifically, this could be a tribunal or any entity the law authorises.

    In a legal proceeding, the court has the power to administer oaths. Upon administering an oath, the court may accept the evidence that the witness provides as valid.

    Interpreter

    An interpreter is an individual whose primary purpose is to translate whatever the witness says into the language that the court understands. The interpreter could also be someone who can interpret the signs which a witness gives in a legal proceeding.

    Intermediary

    An intermediary is a court official who has received adequate training to facilitate communication between witnesses and the court members.

    An intermediary official possesses the skills to assist witnesses with various communication problems. Sometimes the communication problem could be a result of the witness's mental health, or it could be age-related.

    Statement

    A sworn statement refers to an utterance a witness makes under oath. In a trial, a sworn statement stands as evidence.

    The Offence of Perjury in the ACT

    According to Section 703 of the Criminal Code 2002 (ACT), making a false sworn statement in a legal proceeding is an offence of perjury.

    Under this section, the court may find a person guilty of this crime even if they gave the false statement due to their recklessness.

    Anyone who commits this offence may receive a maximum penalty of 700 penalty units or seven years imprisonment and sometimes both.

    Also, according to this section of the law, an interpreter can be guilty of the crime of perjury. Specifically, this could happen when an interpreter gives a false interpretation of a sworn statement in a legal proceeding.

    If the court finds an interpreter guilty of the offence of perjury, then they may face a maximum of 700 penalty units or seven years imprisonment. However, there are cases where the offender could get both penalties depending on the peculiarity of the case.

    Additionally, based on this section, an intermediary can commit the offence of perjury. The law states that it is illegal for an intermediary to communicate a false statement to the court in the process of assisting a witness during a legal proceeding.

    The intention behind providing a false statement could be to procure the conviction or release of an individual.

    Any intermediary who commits the crime of perjury may receive a maximum of 1400 penalty units or 14 years imprisonment. There are cases where an intermediary may face both penalties.

    The penalties that come with an intermediary committing the crime of perjury are more serious. Based on the law when an intermediary commits the offence of perjury, it becomes aggravated.

    Aggravated Perjury in the ACT

    According to Section 702 of the Criminal Code 2002 (ACT), a case of perjury can become aggravated. Aggravated perjury refers to a situation where a person gives a false statement while being under oath.

    This could be to procure the conviction or acquittal of another person. Aggravated perjury carries a maximum of 1400 penalty units or 14 years imprisonment and, in some cases, both penalties.

    Also, an interpreter may be guilty of the crime of aggravated perjury if they falsely interpret a sworn statement to get a person convicted or acquitted of a crime.

    Any interpreter who is guilty of the crime of aggravated perjury may likely face a maximum of 1400 penalty units or 14 years imprisonment and sometimes both.

    Additional Provisions Regarding Perjury or Aggravated Perjury

    The additional provision regarding perjury and aggravated perjury is evident in Section 704 of the Criminal Code 2002 (ACT). This section states that it is irrelevant if the sworn statement materially relates to the legal proceeding or not.

    Also, it is insignificant if the court or any other authorised entity had jurisdiction to handle the case when the offender committed the offence.

    Furthermore, it is of no consequence whether the individual who made the sworn statement was competent enough to provide evidence during the trial.

    However, the court can declare a person not guilty of the crime of perjury or aggravated perjury if they lack competence, as seen in the Evidence Act 2011 (ACT).

    Additionally, the court does not concern itself with whether there is a formal defect in the sworn statement.

    Under the additional provision regarding perjury or aggravated perjury, a trier of fact can only find a person guilty if they believe such to be true beyond all reasonable doubts.

    For the trier of fact to reach a conclusion, this might require that the trier of fact take a close look at the correct and incorrect statement to determine any irreconcilable conflict.

    Also, this provision states that a sworn statement based on an ingenuine opinion is false. It also establishes that for a conviction to occur, there may not be a need to corroborate the evidence of perjury or aggravated perjury.

    Bottom Line

    The offence of perjury in the ACT can be an obstruction to justice. This is because if the court uses false information, it could wrongly convict an innocent person or acquit someone guilty of an offence.

    Based on these reasons, the courts in ACT do not take the crime of perjury lightly. If a person faces charges for this crime, they should seek legal advice.

    Will a Perjury Offence in the ACT show up on a Nationally Coordinated Criminal History Check?

    If an individual is found guilty of a perjury offence in the ACT, the offence will show up as a disclosable court outcome (DCO) on the results of their police clearance check.

    Individuals can obtain a nationally coordinated criminal history check online via the Australian National Character Check - ANCC® website.

    Sources

    Criminal Code 2002 (ACT) - https://www.legislation.act.gov.au/a/2002-51/

    Evidence Act 2011 (ACT) - https://www.legislation.act.gov.au/a/2011-12

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