Fact sheet – Making a false statement

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What is a ‘false statement’?

An example of a false statement is if you make a complaint to the Police about the conduct of another person, and later on, you make a different statement about that same conduct.

Another example might be if you give evidence on oath in Court which you do not believe to be true.

In both of these circumstances, you could be charged with the criminal offence, making a false statement to police, or perjury. Perjury means making a statement in Court under oath which you know to be false or do not believe to be true.

If you are convicted of either of these offences, you will not only have a criminal record but you may have to pay a fine or you may be imprisoned.

What if I make a false statement to Police?

Making a false statement to the Police or in Court is a serious matter.

In addition to the criminal penalties, there are other serious consequences for making a false statement.

  • your evidence may not be accepted in other courts, such as the Family Law Court in children’s matters
  • you may not be believed by police when making a report in the future
  • you can make it harder for other victims of family violence or sexual assault to be believed
  • you could cause another person to unfairly suffer financial or other loss, negative backlash from the community, imprisonment and other penalties for something they have not done
  • you are diverting Police and court resources away from cases of genuine need.

What should I do if I have made a false statement to Police?

If you have given a false statement to Police, you can contact them and say that your previous statement is not true. Police are likely to insist that you make a new statement setting out that your previous statement was not true.

Even if you do this, you may still be charged with making a false statement to Police. However, the earlier that you tell police about your error of judgement, the more lenient the Court may be in determining an appropriate sentence or penalty.

What if I have made a false statement to Police and are required to attend Court?

You must attend Court if you receive a witness summons. If you give evidence on oath confirming a false statement made previously, then this compounds the wrong you have committed.

If you are later found guilty of making a false statement, or even perjury, these circumstances will be taken into account in determining your sentence.

If you do not attend court when you have been summonsed as a witness, you may be arrested and brought to court. By not attending Court, you may be leaving another person to face the possibility of a false conviction in your absence.

What if I now want to tell the truth in court?

If you are required to give evidence in Court, and you intend to tell the Court that your statement to Police was false, you should ask the court beforehand for a Certificate against Self Incrimination under the Evidence Act. Anything you then say in court cannot be used as evidence against you if police decide to charge you with giving a false statement.

What if I pressure someone else to give false evidence in Court?

If you put pressure on another person not to give evidence, or to give false evidence, then you may be charged with a serious offence of perverting the course of justice.  There are a range of penalties for this offence, including imprisonment.

Last updated: 20-April-2021