A lie can get you on the wrong side of law

When a person lies verbally or in a written statement to the police or court of law, that person is committing perjury, which is a punishable offence. Photo: Bianca Pindral

Perjury is a serious crime, and carries a hefty penalty – imprisonment or a fine.

Perjury is defined as the offence of wilfully telling an untruth or making a misrepresentation under oath. It can be committed verbally, or in writing, in a court or in a police station/ situation where police or other authorities are present.

The Kagiso Police spokesperson, Captain Solomon Sibiya, emphasised the seriousness of perjury, saying that lying to a law enforcement agency of any kind can land you in hot water.

Also Read: Elderly man arrested for perjury

Sibiya illustrated what he was saying by telling the News of a recent incident in which a young man lied about his girlfriend being missing, when in fact he had kidnapped her and was keeping her in his residence. When the police discovered the ‘missing’ young woman in his house, he was charged with perjury. “He knew nothing about the offence of perjury until he had to face the law, and was not expecting to be fined, because the young woman was healthy when she was found,” he said.

“When a person deliberately lies to the police, whether in an affidavit or spoken words, the lie can be used in a court of law against the perjurer, because perjury wastes resources.

This is one of the main reasons why perjurers are sentenced every time they commit the offence, because opening a case sets a process in motion, from the filing, to interviews, to the stationery and the time we use – all resources that could be better used helping someone in real trouble,” said Sibiya.

Sibiya went on to say that consumers frequently commit perjury by attempting to claim against guarantees or warranties issued by manufacturers and retailers, when in fact they have lost or damaged the goods in question themselves.

“We get people who claim to have been robbed of their cellphones, but when we investigate, we discover that the phones were actually damaged. People make false statements to the police in order to get case numbers because retailers and manufacturers often require a case number before they will exchange or replace the ‘stolen’ goods,” he said.

According to wiseGEEK (http://www.wisegeek.org/), the customary punishment for a perjurer is a fine and/ or jail time – depending on judicial discretion in sentencing. The minimum penalty for perjury is one year, and the maximum varies between five and 10 years per charge. If a person lies under oath more than once, he or she stands to be charged with many offences, which can increase either the fine imposed, or the length of a prison sentence.

Legal practitioners can also face criminal charges if they are involved in suborning perjury; i.e., when a legal practitioner knows that his or her client will give false testimony and lets it happen. Legal practitioners should prevent their clients from testifying in court if they know that the client plans to lie in a court of law.

“We urge community members to refrain from perjury and be aware that it is serious offence to lie under oath, as there drastic measures will be taken against anyone who commits perjury,” Sibiya concluded.

Do you perhaps have more information pertaining to this story? Email us at [email protected] or phone us on 011 955 1130.

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Bathabile Msomi

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