Feel like a bit of perjury? Don’t worry you are unlikely to ever be prosecuted

Swearing an oath with fingers crossed behind back concept for dishonesty or business fraud

by Stephen Cook

THE INTEGRITY of the New Zealand justice system is hanging precariously in the balance following a startling admission from police they’re turning a blind eye to perjury because it’s too difficult a crime to prosecute.

Just weeks after former New Zealand cricketer Chris Cairns failed to appear in a London court for a pre-trial hearing on perjury charges stemming from alleged match-fixing, police here have conceded that knowingly giving false testimony under oath is an offence that’s rarely prosecuted.

It’s a quite remarkable admission from police given the offence of perjury – punishable by up to 14 years imprisonment – strikes at the very core of the integrity and confidence we place in our justice system.

The use of perjured testimony not only violates due process, but it can also contribute to wrongful convictions such as that seen in the high-profile Arthur Allan Thomas murder case.

In a police job sheet from June last year obtained this week by Whaleoil, Detective Senior Sergeant Aaron Pascoe, the officer responsible for reviewing all perjury complaints in the Auckland City area, reveals the crime of perjury is not something given much attention by the Crown.   

“To give… some context about how Police deal with perjury complaints, and how high the bar is set for prosecutions… two prosecutions have recently been completed to a standard ready to present to the courts and we have not received authority to prosecute,” he said.

The comments recorded in Pascoe’s official police job sheet were in response to claims from consumer advocate Dermot Nottingham that witnesses giving evidence before the Real Estate Agents Authority routinely perjured themselves.

Chris Cairns will be wishing he'd committed perjury in NZ where it is highly unlikely you will ever be charged. via Newstalk ZB

Chris Cairns will be wishing he’d committed perjury in NZ where it is highly unlikely you will ever be charged for the crime.    Photo via Newstalk ZB

He claimed no action was ever taken by either the REAA or police despite the fact reliable and honest testimony was crucial to maintaining integrity in the judicial process.

Nottingham is not alone in his thinking.

In the past there have been calls for more prosecutions and tougher penalties for perjury as a means of reducing the incidence of miscarriages of justice.

It has been previously reported that in up to 30 per cent of sex abuse cases, officers were not convinced an offence had even occurred.

One outspoken advocate of tougher penalties for perjury has been sociology professor Greg Newbold.

In the past he has spoken out about a culture in the Auckland police, dating back to the 1970s, of officers fabricating or manipulating evidence. The use of jailhouse informants or narks was another great risk to the integrity of the justice system

Perjury cases are a rarity in New Zealand – and now it seems we know why.

The Cairns case can’t be noted as an exception as the cricketer is being prosecuted in the UK.

But in a more recent case the Independent Police Conduct Authority found there was no evidence to suggest Detective Inspector Grant Wormald perjured himself while giving evidence in a court case involving Kim Dotcom.

And last year there was the case of a well-known Auckland conman who, according to court documents, was involved in “drugs, fraud, bullying, corruption, collusion, compromises and perjury.”

That case is ongoing.


cook

Stephen Cook is a multi award-winning journalist and former news editor and assistant editor of the Herald on Sunday.


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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

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