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Fitness to Practise Update Series: Perjury - A Statutory offence in Ireland

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The Criminal Justice (Perjury and Related Offences) Act 2021  was introduced into Irish law on 28 July 2021 and introduced a statutory definition of perjury.

The legislation provides for the offence of perjury and other related offences, including false statements on oath, false statutory declarations and false declarations. Prior to the commencement of this Act, the offence of perjury was a common law offence in Ireland, which was rarely prosecuted. The introduction of this new legislation should enable the offence of perjury to be more easily prosecuted before the courts.
 
Definition of Perjury

The Act provides a comprehensive statutory definition of perjury, as follows;
 
A person commits an offence (in this Act referred to as perjury) if he or she, in, or for the purpose of, a judicial or other proceeding, gives a statement material in the proceeding-
 
(a) while lawfully sworn as a witness or as an interpreter
 
(b) on affidavit, or
 
(c) in a statement of truth made in place of an affidavit in accordance with section 21 of the Act of 2020,
 
that is false, and he or she knows to be false.
 
"Judicial or other proceedings" is defined broadly and applies to proceedings before a court, tribunal, or a person having legal powers to hear, receive and examine evidence on oath. Given the statutory role of Fitness to Practise Inquiries, false evidence in the context of such Inquiries would be open to such prosecution.
 
The key proofs for the offence are that the relevant material statement of perpetrator is false and also that the perpetrator must have had knowledge of the fact that it was false.

The Remit of the Act – Related Offences
 
  • The Act applies to statements made in Ireland for proceedings outside the State, together with any statements made outside Ireland for the purposes of judicial or other proceedings within the State.
  • The Act provides for the offence of “subornation of perjury”. Subornation of perjury is where someone induces, persuades, or permits another person to commit perjury, knowing, or being reckless, as to whether that person is committing perjury.
  • The Act provides for the offence for an individual to make a false statements on oath made otherwise than in judicial or other proceedings.
  • The Act provides for the offence for an individual to make a false statement in respect of any of the following:
           - Oral declaration or oral answer given under an enactment;
           - Statement of Truth;
           - Statutory declaration;
   - Abstract, account, balance sheet, book, certificate, declaration, entry, estimate, inventory, notice, report, return or other document that the person is authorised or required to make, attest or verify under  an enactment;
           - Oral declaration or oral answer given under an enactment.
 
  • The Act provides that it is an offence for an individual, with intent to mislead judicial or other proceedings by fabricating evidence or knowingly make use of such fabricated evidence.
  • The Act provides for the offence an individual to incite another person to commit an offence under this Act.
  • The Act also provide that where an offence is committed by a body corporate, directors, managers, secretaries, or officers of the body corporate may also be found liable where the offence is proven to have been committed with their consent, connivance or willful neglect.
Penalties

The Act provides for serious penalties to be applied, in line with that of the Civil Liability and Courts Act 2004  regarding false evidence and fraudulent claims. The consequences for a committing an act of perjury  on summary conviction, is a Class B fine of up to €4,000 or a term of imprisonment not exceeding 12 months, or both. The maximum penalty on indictment is a fine not exceeding €100,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years, or both.  

It is expected that the introduction of this Act will have a significant deterrent effect in respect of individuals making deliberate false statements and declarations. Particularly, given the serious consequences in terms of the level of sanctions and potential penalties that may be imposed, in circumstances where relevant fraudulent claims are forwarded to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Written by Danielle Sumner and Greta Siskauskaite.

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