Perverting the course of justice
Produced in partnership with Thomas Evans of 3 Paper Buildings
Perverting the course of justice

The following Corporate Crime guidance note Produced in partnership with Thomas Evans of 3 Paper Buildings provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Perverting the course of justice
  • Elements of the offence of perverting the course of justice
  • Conduct which may amount to perverting the course of justice
  • Sentences for perverting the course of justice

Elements of the offence of perverting the course of justice

Perverting the course of justice is a common law offence which can only be tried on indictment in the Crown Court. The elements of the offence are:

  1. a person acts or embarks on a course of conduct

  2. which has a tendency to

  3. and is intended to

  4. pervert the course of public justice

Acts or embarks on a course of conduct

The offence requires a positive act or series of acts; omission or simple inaction is insufficient (eg failing to point out a mistake).

Acts tending (and intended) to obstruct, divert or disrupt criminal proceedings or police investigations generally may suffice—the offence does not need to have taken place in respect of a particular trial or investigation. 

Tendency to pervert

The fact that an attempt to pervert the course of justice ultimately fails does not prevent a prosecution provided that the accused’s actions have created a risk, without further action by them, that injustice would result.

Intention

The prosecution must prove either an intent to pervert the course of justice or an intent to do something which if achieved, would pervert the course of justice.

In R v Kellett, the court held that the offence of attempting to pervert the course of justice would not necessarily be committed by a person who tried

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