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Perverting the Course of Justice

Date Produced: 1 July 2011
Title: Administration of Justice
Offence: Perverting the Course of Justice
Legislation: Common law
Mode of Trial: Indictable only
Statutory Limitations & Maximum Penalty: At large
Sentencing Range: 4 months to 36 months

Aggravating & Mitigating Factors

  • Nature and number of offences
  • Whether premeditated or spontaneous
  • Degree of persistence
  • Arrest of innocent person
  • Innocent person maliciously targeted
  • Any impact upon prosecution

Relevant Sentencing Guidelines

R v Tunney [2007] 1 Cr. App. R. (S) 91
The sentence appropriate for perverting the course of justice essentially depends on three matters:

  1. the seriousness of the substantive offence to which the perverting of the course of justice related;
  2. the degree of persistence; and
  3. the effect of the attempt to pervert the course of justice on the course of justice itself.

Relevant Sentencing Case Law

General sentencing brackets summarised in Archbold at 28-28 as follows:

  • threatening or interfering with witnesses - 4 months to 24 months
  • concealing evidence - 4 months to 18 months, possibly longer if serious crime
  • false allegation of crime resulting in arrest of innocent person - 4 to 12 months

Recent Decisions reported in Current Sentencing Practice reported at B 8-2.3 divided into: interference with prosecution witness; threatening or intimidating witness; making false allegation of crime; concealing evidence; interfering with jurors; false information in mitigation.

AG's Ref (No. 1 of 1990) (John Cameron Atkinson) (1990-1991) 12 Cr. App. R. (S.) 245
Sentence should normally be consecutive to substantive offence.

AG's Ref (No 35 of 2009) (R v Binsteed) [2010] 1 Cr. App. R. (S.) 61
Sentences of imprisonment should not normally be suspended.

Interference with potential witnesses

R v Hurrell [2004] 2 Cr. App. R. (S.) 23
Appellant asked to provide a sample of breath, prevaricated, was arrested, offered the police officer £2,000 to forget about the test, and continued to try to bribe the officer while being conveyed to the police station. On arrival, he provided a sample. He said that his attempt to bribe had been light-hearted. Previous cases considered. Sentence for attempting to pervert reduced to three months imprisonment.

R v Hall [2007] 2 Cr. App. R. (S) 42
The appellant pleaded guilty to conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. He and others indulged over months in very serious and sustained attempts to threaten and intimidate a 15-year-old girl due to give evidence at his trial for a sexual offence against her. Sentence of seven and a half years imprisonment upheld.

R v Jones [2008] 2 Cr. App. R. (S) 75
After a murder, one of those involved contacted the appellant, who agreed he would visit the murder scene to ensure that no one would speak to the police about it. The girlfriend of one of offenders agreed to provide evidence and was given witness protection. The appellant tried to persuade her to retract her evidence by threats and promise of money if she changed her statement. She gave evidence and the men were convicted. After his own arrest, the appellant caused further pressure to be put on her. Convicted. Sentence of 12 years imprisonment upheld.

False allegations of rape

R v Merritt [2006] 1 Cr. App. R. (S) 105
Reviewed authorities. Husband accused and held in custody for 9 hours; sentence reduced to 4 months imprisonment.

R v Fletcher [2006] 2 Cr. App. R. (S) 24
False allegation led to victim being in police custody for 17 hours and waiting 3 months before being told that no further action would be taken; 2 years imprisonment upheld.

R v Beeton [2009] 1 Cr. App. R. (S) 46
Appellant made false allegations of rape against two young men, in respect of one over a period of months and having a profound effect upon him. Sentence reduced to three years imprisonment.

R v McKenning [2009] 1 Cr. App. R. (S) 106
False allegation of rape, for which a man was in custody for 27 hours and left in suspense for three months. "Every false allegation of rape ... makes the offence harder to prove and, rightly concerned to avoid the conviction of an innocent man, a jury may find itself unable to be sufficiently sure to return a guilty verdict." Two years imprisonment upheld.

R v England [2011] 1 Cr. App. R. (S) 51
False allegation of rape leading to police investigation lasting 24 days and the detention of the suspect for 28 hours. 18 months reduced to 12 months on appeal to reflect full credit for guilty plea. Save in cases where offender is suffering from the most acute mental illness the sentence will always be immediate custody. Sentences vary from 4 months to 3 years. The longest sentences are reserved for cases where an innocent person has been maliciously targeted.

Concealing evidence

R v Francis-McGann [2003] 1 Cr. App. R. (S) 14
Speed camera case. Appellant was an army captain. He phoned the police to say that the vehicle had been exported, and subsequently sent a letter to the police. Convicted after trial. Sentence of three months imprisonment upheld.

R v Archer [2003] 1 Cr. App. R. (S) 86
Appellant was the plaintiff in libel proceedings arising from newspaper allegations that he had had sexual intercourse with a prostitute. Convicted following trial on four counts and sentenced as follows:

  • Perverting the course of justice by procuring a false alibi - two years imprisonment.
  • Perverting the course of justice by concealing the existence of a diary, providing his secretary with a blank diary and details to fill in, and using it as genuine - four years imprisonment.
  • Perjury by falsely swearing an affidavit about documents in his possession - three years imprisonment.
  • Perjury that the diary was in existence and contained certain entries - four years imprisonment.

All sentences to run concurrently.
Sentences upheld on appeal

R v Gonsalves [2008] 1 Cr. App. R. (S) 40
The appellant's partner having murdered a man, she helped to clear up potentially incriminating items before dialling 999 and asserting that two foreigners had committed the murder. She maintained her story (which it was accepted she had told at her partner's instigation) for several days. Sentence reduced to 18 months imprisonment.

R v Burney [2008] 1 Cr. App. R. (S) 57
The appellant and his son (aged 23) were drinking in a public house. His son drove home, there was a collision and they ran home, abandoning the car. Later, both told the police that the father had been driving and he provided a breath specimen with a reading over the limit. Sentence reduced to six months imprisonment.

R v Snow [2008] 2 Cr. App. R. (S) 87
Count 1 - appellant stopped by police while driving, gave brother's details, summons issued in brother's name, and brother convicted in absence. Count 2 - appellant stopped on a later occasion, gave his name as Foster, arrested, admissions in interview. Sentenced to nine months imprisonment on each count consecutive. Previous Court of Appeal decisions considered. Important factors are 1) the length of time during which the deception continued, 2) the nature of the deception, and 3) the success of the deception. Sentence on count 2 reduced to three months, giving a total of 12 months' imprisonment.

R v Dawkins [2009] 1 Cr. App. R. (S) 103
Appellant had begun a relationship with a 16-year-old girl, who murdered the woman with whom he had been in a relationship. He was arrested the following day and in interview denied that the girl had with been with him and the deceased in a car moments before the stabbing, denied that he knew exactly where the girl lived and maintained that she had not been in the car. Three years imprisonment upheld.

Interfering with jurors

R v Hardy [2005] 2 Cr. App. R. (S) 48
The appellant attended a Crown Court trial of two other men. On the second day, he (a large man with a closely shaven head) approached a juror, asked him what he thought the verdict would be and, said "find them not guilty" and shook the juror's hand. The juror reported the incident and the trial was then aborted. The appellant pleaded guilty on the basis that the encounter had not been planned, but admitted that he had tried to influence the juror. The Court considered previous authorities Sentence reduced to 21 months imprisonment.

False mitigation

R v Bailey [2006] 2 Cr. App .R. (S) 47
Appellant due to be sentenced for 3 offences of indecent assault on a child. He told a psychiatrist, the probation officer, his solicitor and counsel that he had had a relationship with a woman who was the mother of his child, and that the woman had been murdered and the child killed in a road accident within weeks of each other. In the light of this mitigation the sentencing court imposed a community rehabilitation order. It subsequently emerged that there was no truth in the mitigation. The applicant had never had a partner or a child, and nobody had been killed. Two and a half years imprisonment upheld.

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