It is a criminal offence to knowingly swear or affirm a false affidavit (a written statement given under oath). Such offences are committed by those seeking to pervert the course of justice. For example, a false written statement provided to a District Court by a banned company director about his or her ownership of shares and the methods he or she used to acquire and/or sell them, constitutes a criminal act (perjury).
Section 110 (False oaths) of the Crimes Act 1961 states:
“Every one is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years who, being required or authorised by law to make any statement on oath or affirmation, thereupon makes a statement that would amount to perjury if made in a judicial proceeding.”
This section of the Crimes Act (part 6) is concerned with “Crimes affecting administration of law and justce”.
In order to determine whether the accused knowlingly sought to pervert the course of justice, a judge would determine this on the basis of the facts. If the hypothetical banned company director had given prominence in his company’s advertising material to the fact that he possessed for example a (claimed) MBA, he would find it very hard to convince the judge that his claims about his shareholdings, once proven false in court, were due to an error on his part – based on his misunderstanding of the nature of the definition of “ownership of shares”.
Similarly, a former police prosecutor who had regularly been involved in court cases dealing with rape and sexual violation crimes, would have difficulty defending a false oath he made in a case in which he was convicted of child rape; by using the argument that he was ignorant of the definition of statutory rape in the case of minors.
At a substantive hearing a defendant commits the criminal act of perjury when he or she presents false evidence under oath to the court.
Section 108 of the Crimes Act defines the term perjury:
“Perjury is an assertion as to a matter of fact, opinion, belief, or knowledge made by a witness in a judicial proceeding as part of his evidence on oath, whether the evidence is given in open court or by affidavit or otherwise, that assertion being known to the witness to be false and being intended by him to mislead the tribunal holding the proceeding.”
The punishment for perjury, upon conviction, can be up to 7 years or in other cases up to 14 years (see s. 109 of the Act).