Crimes against public justice in Scotland: Perjury, contempt of court and more

We will defend you from charges of perjury, contempt of court, perverting the course of justice and many other crimes against public justice offences.

Crimes against public justice FAQ

A: Perjury is lying under oath in court or when questioned by the police.
A: Interfering with the proceedings or possible outcome of a live case through speech, writing and even including tweeting.

The Scottish court system is based on open justice. This means almost everything that happens in court also occurs in public.

This is a great principle, but it needs additional laws to ensure no one accidentally or intentionally interferes with the system.  Additional laws are also important so that everyone can receive a fair trial.

You will have heard of the idea that a person is innocent until proven guilty. Giving the press and the public open access to court can sometimes threaten that right to a fair trial.

Courts take any attempt to interfere with the process of justice very seriously and will issue severe penalties for it.

Here we’ll take a look at some of the laws that cover crimes against public justice in Scotland and what they mean.

What is Perjury?

The legal definition of perjury is:

‘The offence of willfully telling an untruth or making a misrepresentation under oath.’

When you appear in court as the accused or a witness, you take an oath, to tell the truth. In other words, you promise that you will be honest and won’t tell any lies.

If you then tell a lie in court you can be charged with perjury and perjury is a severe offence.

You can also commit perjury if you lie to the police when they call you in for questioning or when they interview you under caution.

Perjury is taken seriously because it is an attempt to stop or disrupt the judicial process. 

What is the penalty for perjury?

Someone convicted of perjury can receive a fine or a prison term of up to five years, or both.

What does being found in contempt of court mean?

If you read the papers, watch the news or go online, you will find many reports on cases which are in court at the moment. Journalists can report on current, or ‘live’, trials and you’ll even find them tweeting from courtrooms.

The Contempt of Court Act 1981 covers any publication of information that could interfere with the proceedings or might influence the outcome of a live case. That includes speech, writing and even tweeting. 

To give you some examples, contempt of court includes reporting on jury discussion, publishing a photo of the accused that suggests they are guilty or using a tape recorder in court.

What is the punishment for contempt of court?

Whilst it does depend on the type of court the trial is taking place in, the court can impose a fine and a prison sentence of up to two years.

What is perverting the course of justice?

Perverting the course of justice can be called defeating the ends of justice in Scotland and covers offences that do not have a specific law, such as perjury and contempt of court.

The charge of perverting the course of justice can apply to the accused or anyone else who tries to stop the police and the courts from doing their job. 

It is surprisingly easy for ordinary people to pervert the course of justice, and yet the punishments are severe. A classic example of perverting the course of justice is giving your partner’s name in relation to a road traffic offence to avoid points.

Examples of perverting the course of justice include:

● Trying to bribe a witness and get them to change their story.

● Telling the truth and then changing your testimony to a lie

● Getting caught speeding and getting someone else to take the points for you

● The police are unable to identify the offender due to covering up a criminal offence.

● Stopping the police from doing their duty

● Helping someone to avoid the police or escape prison

What is the sentence for perverting the course of justice?

Someone convicted of perverting the course of justice is likely to go to prison and receive a fine. Although the maximum sentence is life imprisonment for the most severe offences, most cases can still amount to several years.

What is wasting police time?

It might surprise you that wasting police time in Scotland is a crime against public justice, but if you think about it, it is another way for someone to prevent a legal or judicial process from taking place.

If the police are spending time on false claims, then they are not working on legitimate offences.

In 2018/2019 156 people in Scotland were prosecuted for wasting police time, and 102 were convicted.

The penalties the court imposed in these cases included prison sentences and community orders, although many people were issued fixed penalty notices for wasting police time.

Assaulting a police officer

Assaulting a police officer also comes under the umbrella of crimes against public justice.

In 2018/2019 the courts prosecuted 1369 people for assaulting a police officer with 1246 people convicted, so the vast majority.

In these cases, the Courts imposed a range of penalties, including prison terms, fines and community orders.

Resisting arrest

Resisting arrest is another way of stopping the police from doing their duty and those who do so will likely receive a fine but could also receive up to a month in prison.

Perjury and contempt of court requires experienced lawyers

As you can see, crimes against public justice in Scotland covers a wide range of offences and all of them taken very seriously by the Scottish judicial system.

Suppose you face a charge for any offence that attempts to interfere with the police or court system you need to speak to a criminal lawyer urgently. We are available 24 hours a day.