Perjury – A Serious Offence

Perjury – A Serious Offence
Monday December 24, 2012

Perjury, although seemingly an outdated and minor offence, is still taken very seriously by courts to act as a deterrent for undermining the judicial process. In a recent decision of the High Court (R v Kendall) Justice Toogood found three misleading statements set out in an affidavit to warrant a term of three years imprisonment as a starting point.  In that case Kendall was prosecuted for bringing proceedings against his ex-wife claiming he had subleased a property to his ex-wife’s business and that it owed $72,000 in rent.  His Honour’s reasons for the three year sentence were:

  1. The way the Kendall approached the first case required his ex-wife to instruct a solicitor and incur over $33,000 in legal fees;
  2. Kendall made the statements in order to cause financial harm and emotional distress to his ex-wife;
  3. Kendall repeated two of the false statements in a second affidavit sworn some five months later, leading His Honour to believe it was a deliberate campaign of destruction and not an impulsive decision.

It was argued by counsel for Kendall that, because the false affidavits were sworn in civil proceedings, the offending was at the lower end of the scale.  However, Court found the important point was the deliberate misuse of the legal system to inflict harm. The Court regarded the significance of the proceeding in which the perjury occurred as being irrelevant. Ultimately the sentence of three years imprisonment was reduced due to personal circumstances.  A six month reduction was allowed in acknowledgement of Kendall’s 40 years of service in the Fire Service, together with a further six month reduction by reason of a reparation payment of $25,000. An offender’s age and health is also deemed relevant as to whether or not prison time or home detention is appropriate, and it was found that Kendall would suffer considerable hardship (i.e. more hardship than that of a young person of good health) if he was sentenced to imprisonment.  Because of the reductions, the maximum home detention sentence of twelve months, and the fact that Kendall had already served three months of the sentence in prison (which His Honour deemed equivalent to four to five months of home detention), he was sentenced to seven months home detention and a reparation payment of $25,000. While the reduction in sentence may seem to be yet another soft approach by the judiciary, ultimately Kendall’s false statements were a revenge act against an ex-partner.

 

By Chris Patterson