consequences of lying to the court

A further illustration of the consequences of lying to the court

Posted by
James Harbottle
Read more

A further illustration of the consequences of lying to the court

Ian Walker - Solicitor/ Mediator/ Arbitrator/ M
Ian Walker – Solicitor/ Mediator/ Arbitrator/ Managing Director

It is a common complaint in family proceedings, especially financial remedy cases sorting out finances on divorce, that the other party has ‘got away’ with lying to the court. It is true that the family court will not always take action in response to lies told to it, but it would be quite wrong for anyone to believe that they can get away with any lies they may tell.

We have explained here previously that if someone lies to the court about their financial circumstances then the court can draw ‘adverse inferences’ – i.e. infer that something highly material, and highly adverse, to them is being obscured, for example that they have significant assets that they are refusing to disclose.

But the consequences of lying to the court can be far more serious, as was amply illustrated by a recent case in the Worcester Crown Court.


Falsified bank statements

The case arose from proceedings in the Family Court, in which the husband was seeking to stop the maintenance payments he was making to his former wife.

In 2015, when he was earning £750,000 a year working in the oil and gas industry, the husband was ordered to pay maintenance to the wife at the rate of £3,500 per month. However, the husband stopped the payments in 2016, when he was made redundant.

consequences of lying to the court

The husband applied to the court for the maintenance order to be discharged. He had obtained new employment, but claimed that he was only then earning between £35,000 and £40,000 a year.

As is normal, the court required the husband to produce documentary evidence of his means, including his bank statements.

Suspicion was raised when it was noticed that one of the statements contained a date of ‘September 31’, which obviously does not exist. The husband initially denied under oath that he had created the statements, but after being told to clarify the matter with his bank he admitted that he had.

The husband was charged with the offence of perverting the course of justice.

Hearing the case in the Worcester Crown Court His Honour Judge Cartwright said that what the husband had done struck “at the heart of the justice system”, and described it as “a planned and sophisticated attempt to deceive the court and the litigant on other side”, aimed at gaining a financial advantage for himself.

The judge explained that a deterrent sentence was required, and he therefore imposed upon the husband a prison sentence of nine months.


Other consequences of lying to the courtA further illustration of the consequences of lying to the court

The report of the case does not say what the Family Court did after finding out about the husband’s deceit, but clearly there could have been other consequences for him.

For one thing the court would almost certainly not have discharged the maintenance order, although how much maintenance the husband was thereafter required to pay would of course depend upon his income (which in turn may have been affected by his imprisonment).

But there would also have been arrears under the original maintenance order, at least part of which the husband would quite likely have been required to pay, irrespective of his incarceration.

And lastly, the court may well have ordered the husband to pay all or part of the wife’s legal costs in relation to the application to discharge the maintenance order.

In short, there can be consequences for lying to the court, and those consequences can be very serious. The court expects the parties to tell the truth, and anyone contemplating lying or falsifying evidence to improve their case should think very carefully before doing so.