CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY
Commencement Matter – Thursday 16 November, 2017
David Stanton T.D., Minister of State, Department of Justice and Equality
Senator Pádraig Ó Céidigh
The need for the Minister for Justice and Equality to legislate in order to make perjury a statutory criminal offence.
I wish to thank the Senator for raising this matter in the House today and on behalf of the Minister for Justice and Equality, I would like to state the following : -
Perjury is of course already established as a common law offence in Ireland and there have been prosecutions of this offence. Also, there are specific offences which have been created in circumstances, which would amount to perjury such as the specific offence in Section 18 of the Commissions of Investigation Act 2004 of giving false evidence to a Commission, and Section 3 of the Tribunal of Enquiry (Evidence) (Amendment) Act 1979.
There is also Section 25 of the Civil Liabilities and Courts Act, 2004 which makes it an offence to give false or misleading evidence in personal injury actions. If convicted of this offence on indictment, a person can be sentenced to imprisonment for up to 10 years or a fine of up to 100,000 euros or both. From representations received recently by the Minister for Justice and Equality, this would seem to be the type of circumstance which is of particular concern. In response to these representations, Minister Flanagan has asked officials to examine the case for legislating for a statutory offence of perjury in consultation with relevant authorities.
Separately, it is understood that the matter of perjury and whether the Government should consider legislating for a statutory offence is being examined by a working group chaired by Minister of State at the Department of Finance, Michael D’Arcy. This group is looking at the cost of insurance and identifying what measures can be introduced to help reduce theses costs for consumers and businesses.
It is understood that the group reported its first phase of work and is now considering legally-related matters. These matters include the examination of amongst other things reviewing the personal injuries court process and in particular considering how effective the Civil Liability and Courts Act 2004 has been. It is understood that the trigger for this has been the Working Group’s consultations with stakeholders where examples of fraudulent and exaggerated claims have been outlined including how the impact of such behaviour was having a damaging effect on businesses.
As part of this review, it is understood that consideration is being given to finding ways of more effectively applying a number of provisions including : -
Section 25 of the Civil Liability and Courts Act 2004 which as already stated creates an offence for giving false or misleading evidence, or giving false or misleading instructions to a solicitor or expert;
And Section 26 of the same Act which requires a court to dismiss any personal injuries action in which the plaintiff gives or causes to be given false or misleading evidence, or swears a false or misleading affidavit.
This working group is attended by relevant stakeholders. It is understood that they are still deliberating these matters.
At this stage, it would be premature to anticipate their findings but I can assure you on behalf of the Minister for Justice and Equality, the analysis in their report, once published, will be considered in his Department’s examination of the need to legislate to make perjury a statutory criminal offence.