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Hot Topic: Perjury

Perjury dictionary definition: Perjury is the willful giving of false testimony under oath or affirmation, before a competent tribunal, upon a point material to a legal inquiry.

Perjury defined under the Criminal Code: Section 131 (1) Subject to subsection (3), every one commits perjury who, with intent to mislead, makes before a person who is authorized by law to permit it to be made before him a false statement under oath or solemn affirmation, by affidavit, solemn declaration or deposition or orally, knowing that the statement is false.

Fabricating Evidence under the Criminal Code: Section 137 Every one who, with intent to mislead, fabricates anything with intent that it shall be used as evidence in a judicial proceeding, existing or proposed, by any means other than perjury or incitement to perjury is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years.

  • Criminal Code, R.S.C., 1985, c. C-46

If a person who is asked to testify under oath makes untruthful statements, they may have committed  the criminal act of perjury. Like any other criminal act, you can be charged if it is discovered and proved that you have lied. If a person intentionally misleads justice by saying untruthful statements in a judicial proceeding, he or she is guilty of an indictable offence of perjury.

What is the Punishment for Perjury in Canada?

Misleading justice is a very serious and punishable criminal offence in most countries, including Canada. A person charged for perjury is liable to imprisonment if found guilty. The maximum period you can be sentenced to prison is 14 years. An accused generally cannot be convicted of an offence on the evidence of only one witness. However, if the evidence provided by that one witness is corroborated in a significant  detail by evidence that implicates the accused, the accused can be convicted.

Perjury, bribery and contempt

Perjury, as described above, has to do with untruthful statements and stating misleading information intentionally, to protect yourself or someone else. Bribing is offering or accepting a bribe, typically money or some other inducement, with the aim of interfering with justice. Bribery is often correlated to perjury, because a person who testifies untruthfully is sometimes bribed or paid to lie. An act of contempt can be applied to everyone, an offender, a lawyer, a witness or a member of the public.  It is referred to as any form of disrespect shown towards the court.  Often perjury, bribery and contempt go hand-in-hand.

Perjury Cases in Canada

Some perjury cases are highly publicized and followed by the media. This happens more often if the persons involved are part of a public institution or are high profile and of general interest to the public. For instance, in January 2016, four Toronto police officers were charged with perjury. They pulled over the car of a man and searched his car for drugs believing that he might be transporting narcotics. One officer even testified falsely and claimed they found heroin in the car of the accused. The officers were suspended with pay until the court trial started.

In another case, one Hamilton police detective was charged with one count of perjury and two counts of obstructing justice for encouraging an informant to place a gun in the house of a suspected drug dealer. The detective had committed perjury by lying in a sworn document submitted to a justice of the peace in order to get a search warrant for the residence of the drug dealer.

The media also closely followed the case of former Outlaws, Loners and Bandidos Motorcycle club member, Bob Pammett. He was convicted of perjury and sentenced to one year of imprisonment because he falsely testified in court during the assault trial of his fellow biker and son-in-law. Another notorious case that was covered heavily by media involved RCMP officer, Benjamin Robinson, who was convicted of perjury in the case of a Polish immigrant who died at Vancouver airport. Robinson, along with the three other officers involved, had made false and inaccurate statements about the events that had occurred. An amateur video recording of the incident had shown that the incident unfolded contrary to their statements.

Especially interesting are bankruptcy cases of perjury. When a debtor signs bankruptcy documents, they can be charged for perjury if it is proven that the documents contain wrong or incomplete information. You can go to prison for up to 5 years for committing perjury in relation to bankruptcy. Apart from receiving a jail sentence, you can also receive a fine and be required to pay restitution if someone was harmed because of your act of perjury. You can also lose some rights as a citizen, such as the right to vote, to have a firearm, etc.  Let this be a good reminder to always tell the truth and when in doubt, consult a lawyer!

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