The offence of Perverting the course of justice is found at section 319 of the Crimes Act 1900.
The offence of Perverting the course of justice captures a wide range of activity but is often successfully defended where there are not court proceedings on foot at the time of the commission of the offence. Additionally, the Office of Director of Public Prosecutions will sometimes accept a plea of guilty to a less serious offence as there are many offences in the Crimes Act 1900 which constitute perverting the course of justice (e.g. tampering with evidence) but carry lesser penalties.
If you are charged with the offence of Perverting the course of justice, your options will normally be to plead guilty or not guilty.
Pleading not guilty
You will be found not guilty of the offence of Perverting the course of justice if the police cannot prove beyond reasonable doubt:
- You did any act or made any omission;
- With intent in any way to pervert the course of justice.
Perverting the course of justice is a reference to obstructing, preventing, perverting or defeating the course of justice or the administration of the law.
The administration of the law is not to be construed literally so to apply to every function of any government body applying and enforcing the law of the State. The words should be construed in the traditional sense as applying to “the administration of the civil and criminal law by courts and tribunals”. Thus, the offence does not apply, for example, to a false statement made in respect of a motor traffic infringement.
In order for there to be an intention to pervert the course of justice, you must either know that judicial proceedings are on foot or that they are imminent or might occur.
Examples of times that an act has occurred intending to pervert the course of justice include:
- During committal proceedings.
- During police investigations where proceedings are imminent or where the investigations could or might bring about proceedings.
- Where a person gave a false account of a crime resulting in the police wasting time in their investigations.
- Where a doctor gave a false medical certificate in order that an adjournment would be obtained before a particular judge.
If the police are able to prove the above elements beyond reasonable doubt, you will still be found not guilty if any of the following defences can be established:
Contact our offices in Sydney or Blacktown to organise a time for one of our criminal lawyers to advise you of your prospects of successfully defending the charge of Perverting the course of justice.
If you agree that you have committed the offence (and the police are able to prove so), it is best to plead guilty as you will normally receive a discount on sentence and it will demonstrate remorse and contrition. Alternatively, it may be the case that one of our experienced solicitors can negotiate with prosecutors for you to plead guilty to less serious facts or even a less serious charge.
Perverting the course of justice is a serious criminal offence, which can only be finalised in the District Court. The maximum penalty in the District Court is 14 years imprisonment. However, this penalty is typically reserved for the worst offenders. If you are charged with Perverting the course of justice you should contact our office immediately.
Penalties that a court can impose in NSW are: