Perverting the course of justice
Perverting the course of justice, in English, Canadian (see article 139 of Canadian Criminal Code), and Irish
Republic of Ireland
Ireland , described as the Republic of Ireland , is a sovereign state in Europe occupying approximately five-sixths of the island of the same name. Its capital is Dublin. Ireland, which had a population of 4.58 million in 2011, is a constitutional republic governed as a parliamentary democracy,...

Law is a system of rules and guidelines which are enforced through social institutions to govern behavior, wherever possible. It shapes politics, economics and society in numerous ways and serves as a social mediator of relations between people. Contract law regulates everything from buying a bus...

, is a criminal offence in which someone prevents justice
Justice is a concept of moral rightness based on ethics, rationality, law, natural law, religion, or equity, along with the punishment of the breach of said ethics; justice is the act of being just and/or fair.-Concept of justice:...

 from being served on himself or on another party. It is a common law offence carrying a maximum sentence of life imprisonment
Life imprisonment
Life imprisonment is a sentence of imprisonment for a serious crime under which the convicted person is to remain in jail for the rest of his or her life...


Perverting the course of justice can be any of three acts:
  • Fabricating or disposing of evidence
  • Intimidating or threatening a witness
    A witness is someone who has firsthand knowledge about an event, or in the criminal justice systems usually a crime, through his or her senses and can help certify important considerations about the crime or event. A witness who has seen the event first hand is known as an eyewitness...

     or juror
  • Intimidating or threatening a judge
    A judge is a person who presides over court proceedings, either alone or as part of a panel of judges. The powers, functions, method of appointment, discipline, and training of judges vary widely across different jurisdictions. The judge is supposed to conduct the trial impartially and in an open...

Also criminal are (1) conspiring with another to pervert the course of justice and (2) intending to pervert the course of justice.

Statutory versions of the offence exist in Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. See, for example, Section 319 of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW), where the maximum penalty is 14 years' imprisonment.

England and Wales

Doing an act tending and intended to pervert the course of public justice is an offence under the common law
Common law
Common law is law developed by judges through decisions of courts and similar tribunals rather than through legislative statutes or executive branch action...

 of England and Wales
England and Wales
England and Wales is a jurisdiction within the United Kingdom. It consists of England and Wales, two of the four countries of the United Kingdom...


This offence, and the subject matter of the related forms of criminal conspiracy
Conspiracy (crime)
In the criminal law, a conspiracy is an agreement between two or more persons to break the law at some time in the future, and, in some cases, with at least one overt act in furtherance of that agreement...

, has been referred to as:
  • Perverting the course of justice
  • Interfering with the administration of justice
  • Obstructing the administration of justice
  • Obstructing the course of justice
  • Defeating the due course of justice
  • Defeating the ends of justice
  • Effecting a public mischief

This proliferation of alternative names is "somewhat confusing".

This offence is also sometimes referred to as "attempting to pervert the course of justice". This is potentially misleading. An attempt to pervert the course of justice is a substantive common law offence and not an inchoate offence. It is not a form of the offence of attempt
Attempt was originally an offence under the common law of England.Attempt crimes are crimes where the defendant's actions have the form of the actual enaction of the crime itself: the actions must go beyond mere preparation....

 and it would be erroneous to charge it as being contrary to section 1(1) of the Criminal Attempts Act 1981
Criminal Attempts Act 1981
The Criminal Attempts Act 1981 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It applies to England and Wales and creates criminal offences pertaining to attempting to commit crimes...


High-profile convictions

  • Jonathan Aitken
    Jonathan Aitken
    Jonathan William Patrick Aitken is a former Conservative Member of Parliament in the United Kingdom, and British government minister. He was convicted of perjury in 1999 and received an 18-month prison sentence, of which he served seven months...

  • Jeffrey Archer
  • Marcus Einfeld
    Marcus Einfeld
    Marcus Richard Einfeld is a retired Australian justice of the Federal Court of Australia and the Supreme Courts of New South Wales, Western Australia and the Australian Capital Territory; a former President of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission; a UNICEF Ambassador for Children; a...

    , Australia
    Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

    n judge
  • John Humble, for the Wearside Jack
    Wearside Jack
    Wearside Jack is the nickname given to John Samuel Humble , a hoaxer who pretended to be the Yorkshire Ripper in the late 1970s. In 2006 he was convicted for perverting the course of justice.-Taunting letters:...

     hoax letters and tapes
  • Bruce Hyman
    Bruce Hyman
    Bruce Anthony Hyman is a radio and TV producer and the only barrister in 800 years to be sent to prison for attempting to pervert the course of justice.-Crime:On Monday 6 August 2007 Hyman was convicted of attempting to pervert the course of justice....

    , the only barrister
    A barrister is a member of one of the two classes of lawyer found in many common law jurisdictions with split legal professions. Barristers specialise in courtroom advocacy, drafting legal pleadings and giving expert legal opinions...

     so convicted in 800 years
  • Karen Matthews and Michael Donovan, who were involved in Shannon Matthews' abduction
  • Nadine Milroy-Sloan, who knowingly falsely accused Neil Hamilton
    Neil Hamilton (politician)
    Mostyn Neil Hamilton is a former British barrister, teacher and Conservative MP. Since losing his seat in 1997 and leaving politics, Hamilton and his wife Christine have become media celebrities...

     of rape
    Rape is a type of sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse, which is initiated by one or more persons against another person without that person's consent. The act may be carried out by physical force, coercion, abuse of authority or with a person who is incapable of valid consent. The...

  • Lionel Murphy
    Lionel Murphy
    Lionel Keith Murphy, QC was an Australian politician and jurist who served as Attorney-General in the government of Gough Whitlam and as a Justice of the High Court of Australia from 1975 until his death.- Personal life :...

    , Justice of the High Court of Australia
    High Court of Australia
    The High Court of Australia is the supreme court in the Australian court hierarchy and the final court of appeal in Australia. It has both original and appellate jurisdiction, has the power of judicial review over laws passed by the Parliament of Australia and the parliaments of the States, and...

     (later reversed on appeal)
  • Ali Dizaei
    Ali Dizaei
    Jamshid Ali Dizaei is a Commander in London's Metropolitan Police Service. Iranian-born with dual nationality, and formerly one of Britain's most senior Muslim police officers, he came to prominence as a result of his outspoken views on racial discrimination in the London Metropolitan Police and...

    , former Metropolitan Police
    Metropolitan police
    Metropolitan Police is a generic title for the municipal police force for a major metropolitan area, and it may be part of the official title of the force...


See also

  • Perjury
    Perjury, also known as forswearing, is the willful act of swearing a false oath or affirmation to tell the truth, whether spoken or in writing, concerning matters material to a judicial proceeding. That is, the witness falsely promises to tell the truth about matters which affect the outcome of the...

  • Compounding a felony
    Compounding a felony
    Compounding a felony was an offence under the common law of England and was classified as a misdemeanour. It consisted of a prosecutor or victim of an offence accepting anything of value under an agreement not to prosecute, or hamper the prosecution of, a felony...

  • Compounding treason
    Compounding treason
    Compounding treason is an offence under the common law of England. It is committed by anyone who agrees for consideration to abstain from prosecuting the offender who has committed treason.It is still an offence in England and Wales, and in Northern Ireland...

  • Embracery
    Embracery is the attempt to influence a juror corruptly to give his verdict in favour of one side or the other in a trial, by promise, persuasions, entreaties, money, entertainments and the like....

  • Misprision of felony
    Misprision of felony
    Misprision of felony was an offence under the common law of England and was classified as a misdemeanour. It consisted of failing to report knowledge of a felony to the appropriate authorities.Exceptions were made for close family members of the felon....

  • Misprision of treason
    Misprision of treason
    Misprision of treason is an offence found in many common law jurisdictions around the world, having been inherited from English law. It is committed by someone who knows a treason is being or is about to be committed but does not report it to a proper authority...

  • Obstruction of justice
    Obstruction of justice
    The crime of obstruction of justice, in United States jurisdictions, refers to the crime of interfering with the work of police, investigators, regulatory agencies, prosecutors, or other officials...

  • Contempt of Court
    Contempt of court
    Contempt of court is a court order which, in the context of a court trial or hearing, declares a person or organization to have disobeyed or been disrespectful of the court's authority...

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