Contempt of Court and Perjury
Contempt of Court
Contempt of Court is openly challenging the Court’s authority by either interrupting the hearing of a matter through disruptive behaviour in Court or refusing a Summons to attend to Court. For example, if you breach a court order, you could be charged with Contempt of Court.
To establish a Contempt of Court charge, the Police must prove beyond all reasonable doubt that:
- The conduct amounting to contempt of court occurred in Court proceedings; and
- The conduct interfered with the administration of justice.
Importantly, establishing an intention to interfere with Court proceedings is not required. All that is required is an intention to commit the act(s) amounting to Contempt of Court.
The maximum penalty for Contempt of Court is 1-month imprisonment but may result in a fine only.
Defences to a Contempt of Court charge
It is a defence if it was not your intention to commit the act(s) amounting to Contempt of Court. For example, you can argue that it was not your intention to breach the Court’s orders. You can also argue that you did not refuse to appear in court, rather it someone else who interrupted proceedings / was required to appear in court. Further, you can argue that your charge was based on a mistake.
Perjury is an offence of deliberately giving false evidence to Court, such as making a false statement or tendering a false document. You can also be charged with Perjury if you make a false statement to a Police Officer (e.g. you make a false Police report).
There are three elements of statutory Perjury that the Police must establish beyond reasonable doubt:
- That you made a false statement about a fact, matter or thing to the Court;
- That you knew that statement was false or incorrect;
- The statement was made under oath or under prohibited circumstance.
To prove a common law perjury charge, the Police must prove beyond reasonable doubt that:
- That you made a false statement to the Court;
- Whilst under oath;
- To the Court whilst in session;
- Which was key to the determination of the proceeding; and
- You knew the statement was false.
The maximum penalty for Perjury is 15 years imprisonment.
Defences for a Perjury Charge
If you held an honest and reasonable belief that the statement(s) you made to Court were true at the time you made them, you can raise a defence to your Perjury charge. You can also argue that it was not your intention to mislead the Court or that your statements were not made under oath. Similar defences can be raised for a Common law Perjury charge, but an additional defence is to argue that the false statement(s) were not material to the judicial proceedings.
You may also have a defence of a factual dispute relating to the charge.
Perjury and Contempt of Court charges can be complex. We suggest that you should contact an experienced legal practitioner as soon as possible if you are to be interviewed in relation to these offences so that you can be provided with appropriate advice based on the circumstances relevant to your matter.
 Magistrates Act 1989 (Vic) s 134.
 Legal Services Board v Forster (No 2)  VSC 633, .
 Attorney-General for New South Wales v Dean (1990) NSWLR 650, 655.
 Magistrates Act 1989 (Vic) s 134.
 Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) s 314(3).
 Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) s 314.
 Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) s 314(1).
 R v Mackenzie (1996) 190 CLR 348.
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Views expressed in this article are not necessarily endorsed by Leanne Warren and Associates.