Area of Law – Public Order Offences
An Article about Perjury
The term perjury is used a lot, but the reality is that it is a fairly rare charge.
When you give evidence and you are being certain about something, and it turns out to be wrong – this does not mean that you have committed perjury.
A mistake does not mean you have committed perjury.
Perjury is where you have been wilfully false in the evidence that you have given to a Court.
If a person makes a statement some time previously, and then comes along to Court and states, truthfully, that they have no recollection of the matter any more, then they would not be committing perjury. They are just telling the truth.
It is a very serious charge ,but on a number of cases we have handled where there have been perjury charges the defendant have not received gaol terms. These sentences sometimes reflect the fact that often people lie without thinking it through, and the honest answer would have done them no more harm than the false one.
Examples from case law of suspended sentences for perjury:
R v Wacyk (1996) 66 SASR 530 (CCA)
It is within discretion to suspend the sentence. Two counts of perjury relating to civil proceedings for car accident. The accused received one year 9 months, wholly suspended by court of criminal appeal.
“A suspension of sentence may be granted with respect to any offence unless the power to do so is expressly taken away by parliament. The exercise of the discretion miscarries if it is approached with a pre-conceived view that any particular offence or class of offences may only properly be met by an immediate custodial term of imprisonment.”
DPP v JOSEFSKI  VSCA 265
Man failed to stop and render assistance after fatal motor vehicle collision. He left the scene of a crime where he and his car had killed a young man James Donnelly, who was doing nothing wrong.
He was charged with conspiracy to attempt to pervert the course of justice with his parents.
He received 27 months gaol. Two of his co-accused received $3000 fines without conviction, for giving perjured statements to the effect that they had no knowledge of the incident.