Perverting the course of justice

Perverting the course of justice is an offence committed when a person prevents justice from being served on him/herself or on another party. In England and Wales it is a common law offence, carrying a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. Statutory versions of the offence exist in Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Ireland, and New Zealand. The Scottish equivalent is defeating the ends of justice,[1] while the South African counterpart is defeating or obstructing the course of justice.[2]

England and Wales

Doing an act tending and intending to pervert the course of public justice[3] is an offence under the common law of England and Wales.

Perverting the course of justice can be any of three acts:

Also criminal are:

  1. conspiring with another to pervert the course of justice, and
  2. intending to pervert the course of justice

This offence, and the subject matter of the related forms of criminal conspiracy, have been referred to as:

  • Perverting the course of justice
  • Interfering with the administration of justice
  • Obstructing the administration of justice
  • Obstructing the course of justice
  • Defeating the due course of justice
  • Defeating the ends of justice
  • Effecting a public mischief[4]

This proliferation of alternative names is "somewhat confusing".[5]

This offence is also sometimes referred to as "attempting to pervert the course of justice". This is potentially misleading. An attempt to pervert the course of justice is a substantive common law offence and not an inchoate offence. It is not a form of the offence of attempt, and it would be erroneous to charge it as being contrary to section 1(1) of the Criminal Attempts Act 1981.[6]

This offence is triable only on indictment.[7]


In Canada, the equivalent offence is referred to as "obstructing justice". It is set out s 139 of the Criminal Code:

139. (1) Every one who wilfully attempts in any manner to obstruct, pervert or defeat the course of justice in a judicial proceeding,

(a) by indemnifying or agreeing to indemnify a surety, in any way and either in whole or in part, or
(b) where he is a surety, by accepting or agreeing to accept a fee or any form of indemnity whether in whole or in part from or in respect of a person who is released or is to be released from custody,

is guilty of

(c) an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years, or
(d) an offence punishable on summary conviction.

(2) Every one who wilfully attempts in any manner other than a manner described in subsection (1) to obstruct, pervert or defeat the course of justice is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years.

(3) Without restricting the generality of subsection (2), every one shall be deemed wilfully to attempt to obstruct, pervert or defeat the course of justice who in a judicial proceeding, existing or proposed,

(a) dissuades or attempts to dissuade a person by threats, bribes or other corrupt means from giving evidence;
(b) influences or attempts to influence by threats, bribes or other corrupt means a person in his conduct as a juror; or
(c) accepts or obtains, agrees to accept or attempts to obtain a bribe or other corrupt consideration to abstain from giving evidence, or to do or to refrain from doing anything as a juror.[8]


In New South Wales, the equivalent offence is set out in Section 319 of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW).[9] The maximum penalty is 14 years' imprisonment.

Notable convictions


See also


  1. ^ "HMA v RITA HEYSTER - Judgments & Sentences - Judiciary of Scotland".
  2. ^ "Services - SAPS (South African Police Service)".
  3. ^ This name is used in the statement of offence in the form of indictment approved in R v Williams (K J) 92 Cr App R 158, [1991] Crim LR 205, CA
  4. ^ The Law Commission. Criminal Law: Offences relating to the Administration of Justice. Working Paper No 62. HMSO. 1975. Paragraph 10 at page 6.
  5. ^ Archbold Criminal Pleading, Evidence and Practice. 1999. Paragraph 28-23 at page 2261.
  6. ^ R v Williams (K J) 92 Cr App R 158, [1991] Crim LR 205, CA
  7. ^ "Perverting the Course of Justice". Sentencing Manual. Crown Prosecution Service.
  8. ^ Branch, Legislative Services (18 December 2018). "Consolidated federal laws of canada, Criminal Code".
  9. ^ Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) s 319 General offence of perverting the course of justice .
  10. ^ "Aitken jailed for 18 months". The Guardian. London. 8 June 1999. Retrieved 26 March 2010.
  11. ^ White, Michael (20 July 2001). "Political chancer with lots of fizz". The Guardian.
  12. ^ Rawnsley, Andrew (22 July 2001). "Shepherd's pie and shampagne, anyone?". The Observer.
  13. ^ Hoggart, Simon (28 July 2001). "Drink the Krug (but avoid the shepherd's pie)". The Guardian.
  14. ^ "Ali Dizaei: Met Police commander jailed for corruption". BBC News. 13 February 2012.
  15. ^ Davies, Caroline; Addley, Esther (4 February 2013). "Chris Huhne facing jail sentence after admitting perverting course of justice". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 February 2013.
  16. ^ "Vicky Pryce guilty over Chris Huhne speeding points". BBC News. 7 March 2013. Retrieved 7 March 2013.
  17. ^ "Man admits 'Ripper' hoax charges". BBC News. 20 March 2006. Retrieved 22 November 2006.
  18. ^ "Account of Hyman´s conviction". BBC News. 6 August 2007.
  19. ^ "Shannon Matthews' mother guilty of kidnapping own daughter". The Guardian. 4 December 2008. Retrieved 15 August 2012.
  20. ^ R v Einfeld [2009] NSWSC 119, Supreme Court (NSW, Australia).
  21. ^ Galligan, Brian (2012). "Murphy, Lionel Keith (1922–1986)" (hardcopy). Australian Dictionary of Biography. National Centre of Biography, Australian National University.
Ali Dizaei

Jamshid Ali Dizaei (Persian: جمشید علی دیزایی‎, transliteration: Jamshīd ʿAlī Dizaī; Persian pronunciation: [dizɒːjiː]) (born 1962) is a former Commander in London's Metropolitan Police Service, Iranian-born with dual nationality, and formerly one of Britain's more senior Muslim police officers. Dizaei came to prominence as a result of his outspoken views on racial discrimination in the London Metropolitan Police and various allegations of malpractice on his part. He had received advancement after his criticism of the force following his claims of racism. He was a frequent media commentator on a variety of issues, mainly concerned with ethnicity and religion. In April 2008, he was promoted to Commander, responsible for West London.

In August 2008, he was presented with the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal by the Commissioner, Sir Ian Blair.On 8 February 2010, he was convicted in the Crown Court before Mr Justice Simon on charges of perverting the course of justice and of misconduct in a public office, and was jailed for four years. He had been suspended on full pay since September 2008 and on 31 March 2010 was formally dismissed from the Metropolitan Police.On 16 May 2011, Dizaei's appeal against this conviction was successful and the conviction was quashed, but after a retrial in 2012, he was again found guilty of perverting the course of justice and of misconduct in a public office. He was sentenced to three years imprisonment. On 15 May 2012 he was dismissed from the Metropolitan Police. Dizaei appealed again, but on 14 February 2013 his appeal was dismissed. The Lord Chief Justice said that 'the guilty verdict was fully justified' and that the conviction 'was and remains safe'.

Bruce Hyman

Bruce Anthony Hyman is a British radio and TV producer. A barrister by profession, in 2007 Hyman was the first person in his profession in 800 years to be incarcerated for attempting to pervert the course of justice.

Chris Huhne

Christopher Murray Paul-Huhne (born 2 July 1954), known as Chris Huhne, is an energy and climate change consultant and formerly a British journalist and politician who was the Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament for Eastleigh from 2005 to 2013 and the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change from 2010 to 2012. From September 2013 to August 2014 he wrote a weekly column for The Guardian.On 3 February 2012, Huhne resigned from the Cabinet when he was charged with perverting the course of justice over a 2003 speeding case. His wife at the time, Vicky Pryce, had claimed that she was driving the car, and accepted the licence penalty points on his behalf so that he could avoid being banned from driving. Huhne denied the charge until the trial began on 4 February 2013 when he changed his plea to guilty, resigned as a member of parliament, and left the Privy Council. He and Pryce were sentenced at Southwark Crown Court on 11 March to eight months in prison for perverting the course of justice. He served 9 weeks of this sentence at HMP Leyhill before he was released.Huhne had twice stood unsuccessfully for election as Leader of the Liberal Democrats; in 2006 he came second to Sir Menzies Campbell and in 2007 he narrowly lost to Nick Clegg.

Constance Briscoe

Constance Briscoe (born 18 May 1957) in England is a former barrister, and was one of the first black female recorders in England and Wales. In May 2014, she was jailed for three counts of doing an act tending to pervert the course of justice in R v Huhne and Pryce. She was disbarred and removed from the judiciary.

Death of Bradley Westell

Bradley Westell was a British commercial diver who died on 31 July 1995 in the North Sea off Bacton, Norfolk after his umbilical was dragged into one of the thrusters of the diving support vessel Stena Orelia. The accident led to the 1997 conviction of diving supervisor Kenneth Roberts for perverting the course of justice. Roberts received the first prison sentence ever given for a crime committed offshore by a person working in the North Sea oil industry.

Eunice Spry

Eunice Spry (born 28 April 1944) is a British woman from Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire, a Jehovah's Witness who was convicted of 26 charges of child abuse against children in her foster care in April 2007. She was sentenced to 14 years' imprisonment and ordered to pay £80,000 costs. In sentencing, the judge told Spry that it was the "worst case in his 40 years practising law".

The foster mother forced three children in her care (two foster, one adopted) to eat their own excrement and vomit, rammed sticks down the children’s throats, rubbed their faces with sandpaper and locked two of them naked in a room for a month. Two of her foster children and her adopted daughter have published books about their childhoods. Her oldest foster son, Christopher Spry, nicknamed 'Child C', published a book of the same name about his childhood living with Eunice Spry. Her foster daughter, Alloma Gilbert, published Deliver Me From Evil. Victoria Spry published Tortured in April 2015.Spry also had two other children in her care at this time, one adopted daughter and one adopted son (younger brother of Christopher), but these children did not experience any abuse such as the aforementioned three did.In September 2008 Spry's sentence was reduced by the High Court to 12 years. On 30 May 2014 the Gloucestershire Echo indicated she would be released in June 2014.

Fiona Onasanya

Fiona Oluyinka Onasanya (; born 23 August 1983) is a former Labour Party Member of Parliament (MP), removed from that role as a result of a criminal conviction. She was elected in the 2017 United Kingdom general election for the constituency of Peterborough, which she represented from 8 June 2017 to 1 May 2019.Onasanya was found guilty on 19 December 2018 of perverting the course of justice for lying to police to avoid being prosecuted for speeding. She unsuccessfully sought to secure permission to appeal the conviction. Her expulsion from the Labour Party, effective in December 2018, was announced in January 2019. On 29 January 2019 she was sentenced to three months in prison. She was removed from office on 1 May 2019 after a successful recall petition, automatically triggered in cases of a custodial sentence of a year or less, under the Recall of MPs Act 2015, prompting a by-election, making her the first MP to lose their seat through this process.


In the United States criminal law, a frame-up (frameup) or setup is the act of framing someone, that is, providing false evidence or false testimony in order to falsely prove someone guilty of a crime. While incriminating those who are innocent might be done out of sheer malice, framing is primarily used as a distraction.

Generally, the person who is framing someone else is the actual perpetrator of the crime. In other cases it is an attempt by law enforcement to get around due process. Motives include getting rid of political dissidents or "correcting" what they see as the court's mistake. Some lawbreakers will try to claim they were framed as a defense strategy.

Frameups in labor disputes sometimes swing public opinion one way or the other. In Massachusetts, during the 1912 Lawrence Textile Strike, police acting on a tip discovered dynamite and blamed it on the union. National media echoed an anti-union message. Later, the police revealed that the dynamite had been wrapped in a magazine addressed to the son of the former mayor. The man had received an unexplained payment from the largest of the employers. Exposed, the plot swung public sympathy to the union.Frameups are often part of conspiracy theories. For example, there were frameup accusations in the anthrax incident involving the United States Postal Service.A frameup where a police officer shoots an unarmed suspect and then places a weapon near the body is a form of police misconduct known as a "throw down" used to justify the shooting.In British usage, to frame, or stitch up, is to maliciously or dishonestly incriminate someone or set them up, in the sense trap or ensnare.

Gene Morrison

Gene Anthony “Rocky” Morrison (born 1958) was a fraudulent forensic detective who operated over three decades in the Hyde area of Greater Manchester, England, under the title Dr. Gene Morrison.

Memorable for his trademark sheepskin jacket, during the course of his deception he managed to trick not only members of the public, but also many judges, lawyers and the police themselves, into believing he was a genuine expert in forensic science.

Kidnapping of Shannon Matthews

On 19 February 2008, Shannon Louise Matthews (born 9 September 1998), a nine-year-old girl, was reported missing in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, England. The search for her became a major missing person police operation which was compared to the disappearance of Madeleine McCann. Shannon was found alive and well on 14 March 2008 at a Batley Carr house belonging to 39-year-old Michael Donovan. Donovan is the uncle of Craig Meehan, the boyfriend of the kidnapped girl's mother, Karen Matthews.

The kidnapping was planned by Karen and Donovan to generate money from the publicity. Donovan—also known as Paul Drake—was to have eventually "found" Shannon, taken her to a police station and claimed the reward money, which would be split between Donovan and the child's mother. Donovan was charged with kidnapping and false imprisonment. Karen was charged with child neglect and perverting the course of justice on 8 April 2008. Their joint trial at Leeds Crown Court commenced on 11 November 2008 and concluded on 4 December with both defendants found guilty. They were both given eight-year prison sentences.Meehan was convicted of possessing child pornography which was discovered on his computer during the investigation, but had nothing to do with the kidnapping.

Marcus Einfeld

Marcus Richard Einfeld (born 22 September 1938) is a former Australian judge who served on the Federal Court of Australia and was the inaugural president of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. In retirement, he served two years in prison after being convicted of perjury and perverting the course of justice.Einfeld studied law at the University of Sydney. His father Syd Einfeld was a federal MP. He was called to the bar in 1962, and appointed Queen's Counsel (QC) in 1977. From 1972 to 1976, Einfeld was a director of the World Jewish Congress, based in London. After returning to Australia he became one of Sydney's most prominent barristers. Einfeld was appointed to the Federal Court in 1986, serving until 2001. In the same year he was made the inaugural president of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, serving until 1989. He was also the inaugural president of the Australian Paralympic Committee from 1990 to 1992.

In 2006, Einfeld was issued a A$77 speeding ticket for travelling 10 km/h (6.2 mph) over the limit. He appealed the ticket, claiming that he had not been driving. Journalists subsequently discovered that he had made a number of false statements under oath; the woman he had said was driving had in fact died several years earlier. Einfeld was arrested in 2007, and the following year pleaded guilty to perjury and perverting the course of justice. He was sentenced to three years' imprisonment. As a result of his actions, Einfeld was expelled from the legal profession and stripped of many of the honours he had previously accumulated, including his status as a Queen's Counsel, appointment of the Order of Australia, and his status as a National Living Treasure.

Michael Brown (fraudster)

Michael Robert Alexander Brown (born 19 April 1966 in Glasgow) is a Scottish businessman convicted of perjury. Between 10 February and 30 March 2005 he donated £2.4 million to the Liberal Democrats. He was the largest donor the party had ever had, giving ten times more than anything it had received before.

Obstruction of justice

Obstruction of justice, in United States jurisdictions, is a crime consisting of obstructing prosecutors, investigators, or other government officials. Common law jurisdictions other than the United States tend to use the wider offense of perverting the course of justice.

Obstruction is a broad crime that may include acts such as perjury, making false statements to officials, witness tampering, jury tampering, destruction of evidence, and many others. Obstruction also applies to overt coercion of court or government officials via the means of threats or actual physical harm, and also applying to deliberate sedition against a court official to undermine the appearance of legitimate authority.

Police blog

Police blogs are a means for police officers from around the world to tell others about their work and way of life.

The authors often retain anonymity to avoid affecting their ongoing cases. Most police services also have rules on blogging activities that might bring the organisation into disrepute.

It is usual for police bloggers to adopt a pseudonym, such as PC David Copperfield. He is believed to have created the first UK blog of its type, extracts from which were published in the book Wasting Police Time. Subsequently, a further book, Diary of An On Call Girl has been published, based on the blog of PC Ellie Bloggs, and the book Perverting the Course of Justice based on the blog of Inspector Gadget.Emergency Shorts complements its selection of other Emergency service blogs by collecting feeds from popular police blogs, including Crime and Justice which is a news-based police blog publishing press releases from all UK Police forces.

R v Huhne

Regina v Christopher Huhne and Vasiliki Pryce is the prosecution of the former British Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Chris Huhne MP, and his former wife, Vicky Pryce, the former Head of the Government Economic Service, for perverting the course of justice, contrary to common law. Huhne became the first Cabinet minister in British history to resign as a consequence of criminal proceedings. On 4 February 2013, Huhne was convicted on the basis of his own plea after re-arraignment. The trial of Pryce began on the following day, lasting until 20 February 2013 when the jury were discharged by the judge. A re-trial began on 25 February 2013 and led to the conviction of Pryce on 7 March 2013.

Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change

Her Majesty's Principal Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change was a British government cabinet position from 2008 to 2016. The Department of Energy and Climate Change was created on 3 October 2008 when former Prime Minister Gordon Brown reshuffled his Cabinet.

The Energy and Climate Change Secretary revived the earlier post of the Secretary of State for Energy as head of the Department of Energy, existing from 1974 to 1992. After which, the Department of Energy was merged into the Department of Trade and Industry under the Conservative government of Sir John Major in 1992.

Sixteen years later, and immediately prior to the creation of the new department, energy policy was the responsibility of the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (itself now a defunct government department, superseded by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills).

In 2010, Lord Marland was made Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State.On 3 February 2012, Chris Huhne resigned from the post after it was announced that he would be prosecuted for perverting the course of justice, in relation to accusations that he passed on speeding penalties to his ex-wife to avoid losing his own licence. The post was taken over by Ed Davey on the same day.The post was formed into the new Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in July 2016.

Tampering with evidence

Tampering with evidence, or evidence tampering, is an act in which a person alters, conceals, falsifies, or destroys evidence with the intent to interfere with an investigation (usually) by a law-enforcement, governmental, or regulatory authority. It is a criminal offense in many jurisdictions.

Tampering with evidence is closely related to the legal issue of spoliation of evidence, which is usually the civil law or due process version of the same concept (but may itself be a crime). Tampering with evidence is also closely related to obstruction of justice and perverting the course of justice, and these two kinds of crimes are often charged together. The goal of tampering with evidence is usually to cover up a crime.

Vicky Pryce

Vasiliki "Vicky" Pryce (née Kourmouzi (Greek: Βασιλική Κουρμούζη); born July 1952) is a Greek-born British economist, and former Joint Head of the United Kingdom's Government Economic Service. On 7 March 2013, Pryce and her former husband, Chris Huhne, were convicted of perverting the course of justice and sentenced to eight months in prison. After Huhne pleaded guilty, they both served nine weeks in prison.

Wearside Jack

Wearside Jack is the nickname given to John Samuel Humble (8 January 1956 – 30 July 2019), an Englishman who pretended to be the Yorkshire Ripper in a hoax audio recording and several letters in the period 1978–1979.Humble sent a taped message spoken in a Wearside accent and three letters, taunting the authorities for failing to catch him. The message, recorded on an audio cassette, caused the investigation to be moved away from the West Yorkshire area, home of the real killer, Peter Sutcliffe, and thereby helped to prolong his attacks on women and hindered his potential arrest for eighteen months.More than 25 years after the event, a fragment from one of Humble's envelopes was traced to him through DNA, and in 2006 Humble was sentenced to eight years in prison for perverting the course of justice.

Classes of crimes
Elements of crimes
Inchoate offences
Offences against the person
Sexual offences
Public order offences
Offences against property
Forgery, personation and cheating
Offences against justice
Other common law areas


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