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JUDICIAL OFFENCES

Police officers, government officials, lawyers, barristers, magistrates and judges, amongst other persons, can be charged with judicial and other types of offences that interfere with the administration of justice. Such offences carry heavy penalties, including imprisonment. Part 7 of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) is headed “Public justice offences”, and Division 2 deals broadly with offences involving interference with the administration of justice. Such offences include the following:

 

Making a False Accusation

It is an offence to make a false accusation against a person with the intention of subjecting them to criminal investigation. To do so wastes police and court resources, and also exposes the other person to unnecessary stress and costs.  Section 314 of the Crimes Act 1900 states: “A person who makes an accusation intending a person to be the subject of an investigation of an offence, knowing that other person to be innocent of the offence, is liable to imprisonment for 7 years”.

Hindering an Investigation

Gathering evidence and investigating criminal conduct is a difficult task. If a person hinders a police officer or other investigating official, he or she will be committing a serious offence. Section 315(1)(a)–(c) of the Crimes Act 1900 prohibits any conduct that is intended (in any way) to hinder the investigation of, discovery of evidence in relation to, or apprehension of another for, a serious indictable offence.

 

Concealing a Serious Indictable Offence

Did you know that remaining silent about your awareness of a criminal offence could result in you being charged? If you are aware of a serious indictable offence and you do not tell police, you could be committing an offence. Section 316 of the Crimes Act 1900 provides it is an offence for a person, knowing or believing that a serious indictable offence has been committed, to fail without reasonable excuse to give information which might be of material assistance to police. A person who solicits or agrees to accept a benefit in consideration for doing anything that would be an offence under section 316 is also guilty of an offence.

Perverting the Course of Justice

Perverting the course of justice is a broad and serious concept. Interfering with evidence, destroying evidence, and manipulating Court proceedings to undermine a fair trial carries very serious consequences. Section 319 of the Crimes Act 1900 provides: “A person who does any act, or makes any omission, intending in any way to pervert the course of justice, is liable to imprisonment for 14 years”.

 

This offence often arises in the context of solicitors and other litigants attempting to prevent a witness from attending Court to give evidence. Section 323(a) of the Crimes Act 1900 provides a maximum penalty of seven years for a person found guilty of intending to cause a witness in any judicial proceeding to give false evidence, withhold true evidence, not to attend as a witness, or not to produce anything in evidence pursuant to a summons or subpoena.

 

Perverting the course of justice also extends to influencing jurors in Court proceedings. Jurors have an important function during the trial process as they are to make findings of fact based on the evidence presented.  Influencing a juror would undermine the process to a fair trial and could result in a miscarriage of justice.

 

Section 323(b) of the Crimes Act 1900 provides a maximum penalty of seven years for intending to influence the conduct of a juror in any judicial proceedings. Section 324 is an aggravated form of sections 321–323, punishable by a maximum of 14 years, where the offence is committed with the intent of procuring a conviction or acquittal for a “serious indictable offence”.

 

Section 326 of the Crimes Act 1900 provides a maximum penalty of 10 years for threatening or causing injury or detriment to a person on account of anything lawfully done as a witness, juror, judicial officer or other public justice official. A similar offence applies where an offender threatens, does or causes injury or detriment believing the person will or may be called as a witness or serve as a juror. It is insignificant whether the accused acted wholly or partly for a reason specified in section 326. 

 

Soliciting Information from a Juror

It is an offence under section 68A of the Jury Act 1977 to solicit information from, or harass, a juror or former juror for the purpose of obtaining information about the deliberations of a jury or how a juror, or the jury, formed any opinion or conclusion in relation to an issue arising in the trial (or coronial inquest). This means that journalists, students and other persons who wish to obtain information about how a jury reached their verdict cannot contact or approach current or former jurors to enquire about the details discussed during a trial.

 

Giving False of Misleading Information during a Compulsory Examination

Section 87 of the Independent Commission Against Corruption Act 1988  provides that a person who, at a compulsory examination or public inquiry conducted by the Commission, gives evidence that is false or misleading in a material particular knowing it to be false or misleading, or not believing it to be true, is guilty of an indictable offence. The maximum penalty for the offence is 200 penalty units ($2,200) or imprisonment for 5 years, or both.

 

Similarly, section 107(1) of the Police Integrity Commission Act 1996 and section 27(1) of the Crime Commission Act 2012 provides that a person who, at a hearing before the Commission, gives evidence that is, to the knowledge of the person, false or misleading in a material particular is guilty of an indictable offence. The maximum penalty for an offence under section 107  is 200 penalty units ($2,200) or imprisonment for 5 years, or both.

 

Bribery & Corruption

Offences of bribery and corruption are provided in section 200  of the Police Act 1990. Section 200 provides it is an offence for a member of the NSW Police Force to receive or solicit a bribe (pecuniary or otherwise). Under s 200(2), it is an offence for a person to give, offer or promise a bribe to, or make any collusive agreement with, a police officer. An offence against section 200 is an indictable offence punishable by 200 penalty units  ($2,200), or 7 years imprisonment, or both.

 

The Offence of Contempt

The common law offence of 'contempt' is broadly aimed at preventing interference in the administration of justice. Contempt may involve, amongst other things:

 

  • interference by publication (sub judice contempt).

  • misconduct by participants in the proceedings.

  • breach of orders or undertakings.

  • refusal to attend on subpoena or give evidence.

 

As with any criminal offence, the prosecution must prove all the elements of the offence beyond a reasonable doubt. If you have a defence available, the prosecution must negate that defence beyond reasonable doubt if the Court is to find you guilty. If you are charged with a judicial offence please contact KF Lawyers to arrange for a consultation to discuss potential defences and range of sentences that are available in your situation.

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