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Perjury is not only a crime committed against another individual but an offence that directly harms a legal process.
Based on this reason, the Northern Territory has put in place some penalties to discourage the act of perjury. These penalties are present in the Criminal Code Act 1983 (NT).
In this article, we will be discussing every aspect of perjury and the penalties that come with it. Also, we will be looking at the elements that must be present for a person to be guilty of the crime of perjury.
If an individual is convicted in a Northern Territory (NT) court for a perjury offence, the offence will show up as a disclosable court outcome (DCO) on a Criminal History Check result in the Northern Territory.
According to Section 96 of the Criminal Code Act 1983 (NT), the law states that it is an offence of perjury for any person to knowingly give false testimony during a judicial proceeding or for the sake of a judicial proceeding.
This section of the law establishes that the false testimony must be materially related to any question legally raised or intended to be raised at the proceeding.
Furthermore, the law stipulates that it is irrelevant if a person gave false testimony, whether under oath or by an authorised sanction. It further explains that the nature of the ceremony the courts used in administering the oath is immaterial as long as the individual assented to it.
Also, the court does not consider if a person committed the crime orally or in writing. It also pays no attention to whether the court where the offender committed the offence is constituted correctly or not. Furthermore, it is irrelevant if the court trial took place in the proper location or not.
Additionally, it is immaterial whether the individual who gave the false testimony was competent enough to be a witness in a perjury trial and if the court used the testimony or not.
The offence of perjury is an indictable offence in the NT. According to Section 96 of the Criminal Code Act 1983 (NT), the crime of perjury carries a penalty of 14 years imprisonment.
However, committing the crime of perjury to procure the release or the conviction of another person facing life imprisonment attracts the sentence of life imprisonment.
Under Section 98 of the Criminal Code Act 1983 (NT), the necessary evidence for the charge of perjury to stand is present. The law explains that the court can only convict a person for perjury only after another individual corroborates the testimony of a witness. The corroboration of the testimony will stand as evidence in the trial for the case of perjury.
According to Section 43AB of the Criminal Code Act 1983 (NT), some elements are usually present in any offence, including the crime of perjury. These elements include the physical and the fault elements.
Under Section 43AC of the Criminal Code Act 1983 (NT), the law establishes that a person can only be guilty of an offence after the prosecution has proven the existence of the physical elements. It also states that a fault element must be present under each of the physical elements.
Subdivision 2 of the Criminal Code Act 1983 (NT) states some of the physical elements that should be present for the court to find a person guilty of an offence. Some of these elements include:
Conduct refers to an action or inaction. For a person to be guilty of an offence, the prosecution will have to prove that the offender carried out an action or failed to act.
Under Section 43AG of the Criminal Code Act 1983 (NT), omission can be a physical element depending on some factors. In a situation where a person has the duty of acting, and they failed to do so, they may be guilty of an offence.
In a trial for the offence of perjury, proving that the accused's action was voluntary can help establish that the accused is guilty. Furthermore, according to Section 43AF of the Criminal Code Act 1983 (NT), omission to carry out activity can also be voluntary.
A fault element goes with a particular physical element. According to Section 43AH of the Criminal Code Act 1983 (NT), there are different fault elements. These elements include:
Based on Section 43AI of the Criminal Code Act 1983, intention relates to the conduct of an individual. According to this section of the law, the intention has to do with the purpose of engaging in a particular activity.
According to Section 43AJ of the Criminal Code, another fault element is knowledge. Knowledge refers to being aware of the outcome of a particular action.
Recklessness has to do with a person being aware of the potential risk of performing an act and unjustifiably engaging in the action.
According to Section 43AL of the Criminal Code, negligence refers to a situation where a person fails to exercise an amount of care expected from a reasonable person in a particular case.
When facing charges for the crime of perjury, there are some defences that the accused can raise. Some of these defences can result in the acquittal of the accused. Some of these defences include:
During a perjury trial, the defendant can claim that they gave false testimony due to being under duress or a threat. Raising this defence can lead to the court pardoning the offender for the crime of perjury.
However, the defendant will have to prove that when they committed the crime, they genuinely believed that the individual making the threat was in a position to execute the threat.
Also, the accused must show that during the period they committed the offence, they believed there was no other way to stop the execution of the threat. Furthermore, they should be able to convince the court that any reasonable person in their position would have taken the same action.
Mistake of fact is a defence that a person accused of perjury can raise during the trial. Raising this defence would require that the defendant convince the court that they gave a false testimony due to an honest and reasonable mistake.
In the Northern Territory, there are two courts that handle legal matters. These courts are the local court and supreme court. In the NT, the seriousness of the crime determines the court where the trial will be held.
Consequently, this means that either the local court or the supreme court can handle the case of perjury.
Among the different States and Territories in Australia, the NT is one of the few where a person could face life imprisonment for perjury. This alone is evidence of how serious the crime of perjury is in the NT.
Apart from imprisonment terms, being convicted of the crime of perjury can leave a person with a criminal record that might be impossible to erase.
If an individual is found guilty of a perjury offence in the NT, 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.
Criminal Code Act 1983(NT) - https://legislation.nt.gov.au/en/Legislation/CRIMINAL-CODE-ACT-1983
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