We often hear characters in TV crime drama talking about someone ‘perverting the course of justice’ but what exactly does that mean?
This serious criminal offence, which can carry a sentence of life imprisonment, occurs when someone prevents justice from being served on themselves or another party by intimidating or interfering with witnesses, jurors or judges, or tampering with, disposing of or fabricating evidence, and false allegations by accusing someone of a crime which leads to them being arrested.
Interfering, tampering and perjury
Threatening or intimidating a witness or potential witness to a crime you have been accused of, with the intention of deterring them from presenting evidence, is a serious crime. Doing it on someone else’s behalf is equally serious.
The same applies for threatening or intimidating jurors or other members of the court. Threatening or intimidating behaviour is defined as threatening another person with physical or financial harm.
Tampering with evidence is defined as destroying, damaging or concealing evidence, as well as fabricating, altering or falsifying evidence with the intention of misleading the court.
Perjury is defined as making a deliberately false statement in court, which is material to the proceedings. The seriousness of this act is reflected in the sentence it carries – potentially up to seven years in prison. Meanwhile, misleading an investigation by lying to the police could lead to a charge of wasting police time.
Making false allegations
Typical cases of false allegation involve child abuse, domestic violence, sexual offences and serious crime. In many cases though there may be little in the way of a physical evidence, merely the say-so of the accuser. Sadly, there are now considerable incentives for people to make false allegations of abuse, rape and other serious criminal and civil offences in general life and in the workplace.
False allegation cases can be highly, where prosecutions are often based on the complainant’s word against that of the defendant. The lack of corroborating evidence is unlikely to dissuade the police and Criminal Prosecution Service from pursuing such allegations. But for the victim of a false allegation there can be disastrous and life-changing consequences. Anyone finding themselves being falsely accused needs to seek expert legal advice and representation as quickly as possible.
Defence and Sentencing
Possible defences against charges of perverting the course of justice charges can be that the defendant gave false information accidentally, made a genuine mistake or did what they did under duress.
The CPS recommends a sentence of between four and 36 months for people convicted of perverting the course of justice. However, a lesser charge of wasting police time can be brought if the false accusation isn’t deemed serious enough to be considered as perverting the course of justice.
At Edward Hayes, we have extensive experience in helping people who have been falsely accused of committing a crime. If that is you and you are based in the South East of England, call 0800 085 9684 for immediate advice. If you are in another part of the country, call 0845 602 3043. Alternatively, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.