Perverting the Course of Justice (NSW)
The New South Wales Crimes Act 1900 contains a number of offences relating to interfering with the administration of justice. These offences cover acts like making false accusations, threatening or intimidating witnesses, tampering with evidence and perverting the course of justice. The legal system takes attempts to undermine its fairness seriously and so these are serious offences, carrying maximum penalties ranging from two years to fourteen years imprisonment.
Under Section 314 of the Crimes Act 1900, it is an offence to make an accusation against a person intending the person to be the subject of a criminal investigation, knowing the person to be innocent of the offence. The maximum penalty for this is 7 years imprisonment.
It is an offence to hinder the investigation of a serious indictable offence, the discovery of evidence of a serious indictable offence or the apprehension of a person who has committed a serious indictable offence. The maximum penalty for this is imprisonment for seven years.
Threatening or intimidating witnesses
It is an offence to threaten to cause injury or detriment to a person in order to influence them not to bring material information about an indictable offence to the attention of police or other authorities. The maximum penalty for this offence is imprisonment for seven years.
Concealing a serious indictable offence
It is an offence, punishable by a maximum of two years imprisonment, for a person to conceal information that might be of material assistance to police in apprehending or prosecuting an offender for a serious indictable offence.
A person who conceals an indictable offence in order to obtain a benefit, is guilty of an offence punishable by a maximum of imprisonment for five years.
Concealing child abuse
It is an offence for an adult who knows that a child abuse offence has been committed and has information that might assist police to apprehend or prosecute the offender, to fail to bring that information to the attention of police without a reasonable excuse. The maximum penalty for this offence is imprisonment for two years.
Reasonable excuses for not reporting information include the person believing the police already have the information, the person having already reported the information to another authority or the person fearing for their safety or the safety of another person if they report the information.
Tampering with evidence
It is an offence to tamper with evidence or use fabricated evidence with the intent to mislead a judicial tribunal in a proceeding. This offence is punishable with a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment.
Using a false instrument
Section 318 makes it an offence to make or use a false instrument with the intent of perverting the course of justice. A false instrument is a document that purports to be an official document but which has been forged. The penalty for this offence is a maximum of 14 years imprisonment.
Perverting the course of justice
Section 319 provides a general offence of perverting the course of justice by doing any act or making any omission in order to pervert the course of justice. This is punishable by a maximum of 14 years. Perverting the course of justice is defined as ‘obstructing, preventing, perverting or defeating the course of justice or the administration of the law’ (Section 312). Examples of conduct that falls within this general provision are encouraging someone to plead guilty to an offence they did not commit or asking someone to provide a false alibi.
What has to be proven?
For a person to be found guilty of perverting the occurs of justice, the prosecution must prove that they did the act knowingly and intentionally. If the act was a genuine mistake or the person didn’t intend to obstruct the administration of justice, the charge should be defended.
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