Perverting the course of Justice

20 February 2012

The offence of perverting the course of justice is an offence triable on indictment only, which means that such cases can only be tried and/or sentenced by the Crown Court.  A common law offence, it carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment and, in all but the most exceptional of cases, it will warrant a sentence of imprisonment; either immediate or suspended, even for someone with no previous criminal convictions.

The offence is committed where a person: commits an act (a positive act or series of acts is required; mere inaction is insufficient) which has a tendency to pervert and which is intended to pervert the course of public justice.

Examples of perverting the course of justice generally fall into one of the following categories:

  • Interfering with prosecution witnesses;
  • Threatening or intimidating witnesses;
  • Making a false allegation of a crime;
  • Concealing evidence;
  • Interfering with jurors;
  • Giving false information in mitigation.

Examples of more common, lower level offences of perverting the course of justice include giving false details about the driver of a vehicle when a speeding offence has been committed, resulting in someone other than the driver being given penalty points and a fine.

Higher level offences include making false allegations of rape which result in an innocent person spending time in prison or disposing of potentially incriminating items where a murder has been committed.

In relation to giving false details of the driver of a vehicle caught speeding or involved in an accident, there are many examples of those who have been sentenced to immediate terms of imprisonment for this.

The courts always take such matters extremely seriously and regularly impose sentences of imprisonment to make an example of the offender.  This is to ensure that the public can clearly see that no-one is permitted to be above the law and that attempts to undermine and interfere with British justice will be taken seriously and a robust approach to sentencing will be adopted.

On balance, what is the better option?  Admitting a fairly minor road traffic offence and accepting penalty points or a disqualification and a fine?  Or committing a very serious criminal offence where a sentence of imprisonment is probable?  The answer to that may seem obvious.

However, for those who risk disqualification from driving, it can have far-reaching consequences, for example the loss of their employment, subsequent loss of their home and financial hardship for themselves and their families.  In such situations, perhaps it is not surprising that an increasing number of law abiding citizens commit such offences.  It would never be advised that one should commit an offence that tends to pervert the course of justice

However, we can help in such situations where your ability to drive is in jeopardy.  If you are caught speeding or need assistance in relation to any other motoring offence, please contact us on 01245 493939 for expert advice or  email

The above is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.