Perverting the course of justice and witness intimidation

Perverting the course of justice and witness intimidation – two serious offences which do not currently have definitive sentencing guidelines, but this is likely to change very soon.

Perverting the course of justice

This offence is triable only in the crown court. The draft sentencing guidelines indicate a maximum sentence of life imprisonment with a range between a community order and seven years imprisonment. The offence can include giving false information to police officers, fabricating evidence, lying in a witness statement, hiding or concealing a body or incriminating an innocent person.

The most serious of these offences indicated by the new guidelines are those whereby conduct is sustained over a period of time, or perhaps causes substantial delay to proceedings and can warrant up to seven years imprisonment.

This offence is far reaching and can include something as simple as taking speeding points on behalf of another person. In 2003, Chris Huhne MP and his ex-wife, Vicky Pryce, received a sentence of eight months imprisonment as a consequence of her taking his points for a speeding offence to avoid him losing his license. While it may seem to be a low level offence it still warranted a term of imprisonment.

Witness intimidation

This offence is triable either in the Magistrates or Crown court. The sentencing guidelines are up to 6 months imprisonment in the Magistrates Court and range between a community order and up to 5 years imprisonment in the Crown Court

The offence includes pressuring witnesses, with or without violence, from withdrawing allegations or witness statements or pressuring them not to attend court to give evidence, or telling them not to go to the police. This can also include putting pressure on a juror.

The most serious conduct indicated by the guidelines, warranting up to four years imprisonment, are those where actual threats of violence have been used to witnesses or their families for example.

You could even be arrested for this offence up to one year after the conclusion of any proceedings. This means that if someone has intimidated or threatened a witness during or after a trial, for example, you could be prosecuted up to one year after that trial or proceedings have concluded.

It is clear that both offences are deemed very serious, and in most cases, will warrant a term of imprisonment. The views of legal professionals are currently being sought in respect of the new guidelines with a view to publishing them imminently.

If you are arrested or asked to attend for an interview for any criminal offence you should ask for a solicitor. At Paul Robinson Solicitors we can represent you at the police station for free providing independent legal advice or at Court. If you require representation please us contact on 01702 342525 24 hours a day.