Offences for witness omission to tell the coroners court facts

09 June 2021

Not reviewed after the date of publication

Question: 

Can you commit perjury in a Coroners Court? Can you commit it by omitting to tell the courts something you were aware of that had an impact on the case?

Answer:

It is possible to commit perjury in a Coroners Court under section 1 of the Perjury Act 1911 as the offence covers judicial proceedings before any court, tribunal, or person having by law power to hear, receive, and examine evidence on oath (section 1(2)). However, this offence is committed if any person lawfully sworn as a witness or as an interpreter in a judicial proceeding wilfully makes a statement material in that proceeding, which he knows to be false or does not believe to be true and this does not apply in the circumstances you provide. Not making a statement, i.e. an omission would not be sufficient.

We have given consideration to the offence of perverting the course of public justice which is committed under common law when a person:

acts or embarks upon a course of conduct
which has a tendency to, and
is intended to pervert,
the course of public justice

 

Again, as the person has merely omitted to tell the courts something we do not believe that this would amount to the commission of this offence. Please see the case of R v Hedley 1995 where it was held that acquiescence did not constitute an act; Hedley had played a passive role throughout and had not committed any act to pervert the course of justice.

Therefore, from the brief circumstances given, it does not seem that the person has committed any of these offences. 

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