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What happens for a first offence of Conspiracy to Commit Perjury?

Conspiracy to commit perjury is a grave offence in the UK, treated with utmost seriousness by the legal system. This crime involves an agreement between two or more persons to give false testimony under oath, potentially undermining the justice process. If you or someone you care about is charged with conspiracy to commit perjury, seeking legal advice should be the first thing on your to do list. This article provides an overview of the offence, details the sentencing guidelines, and discusses the likelihood of a custodial sentence for first-time offenders. We also offer guidance on where to find further help.

What is the offence of conspiracy to commit perjury in the UK?

Conspiracy to commit perjury is defined under English law as an agreement between two or more persons to make false statements under oath in a judicial proceeding. This offence is particularly severe as it directly attacks the integrity of the judicial system. The key legislation governing this offence is the Perjury Act 1911 read in conjunction with the Criminal Law Act 1977, which outlines the general principles of conspiracy. Importantly, the offence is considered to be committed once the agreement to commit perjury is made, regardless of whether the perjured testimony is actually delivered. The law recognises the gravity of conspiring to distort justice, and the penalties reflect this seriousness.

Here are the primary elements that must be established:

  • Agreement between two or more persons: The prosecution must demonstrate that there was an agreement between at least two individuals. This agreement is the core of the conspiracy. It does not need to be a formal or written agreement; it can be implicit or expressed through actions and communications.
  • Intent to commit perjury: It must be shown that the parties involved had the intention to commit perjury. This means they planned to make false statements under oath or planned to induce someone else to do so. The intent is crucial; there must be a clear purpose to deceive or mislead through false testimony.
  • Knowledge of falsity: The parties involved must know that the statements to be made (or induced to be made) are false. If a person believes their statement to be true, even if it is actually false, this element is not satisfied.
  • Under oath: The false statement must be one that is, or would be, made under oath or affirmation in a judicial proceeding or other legal context where such oaths are required. The perjury aspect specifically relates to the sworn nature of the testimony.
  • Jurisdiction: The planned false testimony must be in relation to a proceeding that is within the jurisdiction of a court or tribunal recognized by UK law. This ensures that the conspiracy relates directly to the legal system in the UK.
  • Overt act (in some cases): In some instances, demonstrating an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy can be necessary. This means showing that at least one of the conspirators took a concrete step towards executing the plan, although this is not always a required element.

Note that the actual commission of perjury (i.e., giving false testimony) is not a necessary element to prove a conspiracy to commit perjury. The crime is in the agreement and the intent to subvert the course of justice, not necessarily in the fulfilment of that agreement.

What are some examples of conspiracy to commit perjury offences in the UK?

  • Agreeing to provide a false alibi in a court case.
  • Planning with others to give coordinated false testimony in a trial.
  • Conspiring to lie under oath to protect a colleague in a professional misconduct hearing.
  • Arranging with a family member to give false evidence in a custody dispute.
  • Coordinating with business partners to give misleading statements under oath in a commercial litigation case.
  • Collaborating with friends or associates to fabricate a story under oath to cover up a crime.
  • Conspiring with others to present false financial information under oath during bankruptcy proceedings.
  • Working with co-defendants to provide uniform but false testimonies in a criminal trial to avoid conviction.
  • Agreeing with a witness to provide a deceitful version of events under oath in a personal injury lawsuit.
  • Orchestrating with others to give false statements under oath in an immigration hearing to support an application or appeal.
  • Colluding with employees or colleagues to give fabricated accounts under oath during an employment tribunal.
  • Conspiring with other parties to provide false testimony under oath in a divorce proceeding to influence the distribution of assets or child custody arrangements.

What happens if you are suspected of committing conspiracy to commit perjury in the UK?

If you are suspected of conspiracy to commit perjury, the process that follows can be complex and stressful. Initially, an investigation is conducted by the police or another relevant authority, such as the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). This investigation will focus on gathering evidence of the alleged conspiracy, which could include communications between the conspirators, any documented plans, or testimony from witnesses.

If sufficient evidence is found, you will be formally charged. The next step is a court appearance, where you will be asked to plead guilty or not guilty. If you plead not guilty, the case will proceed to trial, where the prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt that you conspired to commit perjury.

Throughout this process, the role of your legal representative is crucial. They will provide advice on how to plead, represent you in court, and work to ensure your rights are protected. Your lawyer can challenge the evidence against you, cross-examine witnesses, and argue for bail if you are held in custody.

Moreover, the legal process involves several stages, including pre-trial hearings, potential plea bargaining, and the trial itself. Each stage has its procedures and potential outcomes, making the guidance of a knowledgeable lawyer indispensable.

Finally, if found guilty, the court will proceed to sentencing, taking into account various factors, including the severity of the offence, your role in the conspiracy, and any previous criminal history.

What is the sentence for conspiracy to commit perjury?

The sentence for conspiracy to commit perjury in the UK can vary significantly, depending on the circumstances of the case and the individuals involved. Under English law, the maximum penalty for perjury is 7 years’ imprisonment, and this extends to conspiracy to commit perjury as well.

When sentencing, courts consider both aggravating and mitigating factors. Aggravating factors that can lead to a harsher sentence include the impact of the perjury on the judicial process, the level of planning involved, and whether the conspiracy resulted in a miscarriage of justice. For example, a conspiracy that leads to the wrongful conviction of an innocent person would be treated particularly severely.

Mitigating factors that might lead to a lesser sentence include a lack of previous convictions, the role played by the defendant in the conspiracy (whether they were the instigator or merely a participant), and any remorse shown by the defendant.

The sentencing process is comprehensive and considers the individual circumstances of each case. It involves a pre-sentence report, character references, and possibly medical or psychiatric reports. The final sentence could range from a community order to a full custodial sentence, depending on these various factors.

Will I go to prison if it is my first time committing conspiracy to commit perjury?

For first-time offenders, the likelihood of a custodial sentence for conspiracy to commit perjury depends on the specific circumstances of the case. While the offence carries a potential prison sentence of up to 7 years, not all cases result in imprisonment, especially for first-time offenders.

The court will consider several factors when deciding on a sentence. If the conspiracy was limited in scope, involved minimal planning, or had a lesser impact on the judicial process, the court might be more inclined to impose a non-custodial sentence, such as a community service order or a suspended sentence.

However, if the conspiracy significantly affected the integrity of the judicial process, or if it led to serious consequences such as a miscarriage of justice, even first-time offenders could face a custodial sentence. The court’s primary concern is to uphold the integrity of the justice system and deter others from committing similar offences.

Note that each case is unique, and the court’s decision will be based on the individual facts and circumstances. Legal representation is very important in ensuring you can present your case in the most favourable light and arguing for the most lenient sentence possible, considering all mitigating factors.

Where to get further help

This article has provided an overview of the offence of conspiracy to commit perjury, outlined the typical legal process you might expect if charged with this offence, discussed sentencing guidelines, and considered the likelihood of imprisonment for first-time offenders. Please understand that legal advice is vital in navigating these complex matters. For more information and to receive a free consultation, get in touch with the team at Stuart Miller Solicitors as soon as possible. Their expertise can provide invaluable support and guidance through every step of the legal process.

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