Publication types:

Publication topics:
Perverting the course of justice and witness intimidation

Published on:

30 March 2022

A consultation on the sentencing of perverting the course of justice and witness intimidation offences.

Perverting the course of justice and witness intimidation: consultation paper

This consultation closed on 22 June 2022.

What was this consultation about?

Perverting the course of justice offences cover a wide range of conduct, from giving false information to police officers at a traffic stop to avoid prosecution, to fabricating evidence designed to incriminate an innocent person. Conduct of this kind can hinder or frustrate the work of the police, the prosecution and the courts, which can add to the cost of justice. It can also, potentially, lead to victims being sent to prison wrongly or suffering reputational damage. 

There is currently no guideline for perverting the course of justice. This can be a serious offence and the Council felt that developing a guideline would be of benefit to courts.

Witness intimidation offences include pressuring witnesses to withdraw allegations or witness statements or not to give evidence in court. This could result in victims and their families fearing to give evidence because of actual violence or threats of violence, causing physical harm or mental distress.

There is currently limited guidance for witness intimidation offences in the magistrates’ court, but no guidance for cases sentenced in the Crown Court. Again the Council felt that providing a fuller guideline for use across all courts would be beneficial.

Who was asked to respond?

The Council was seeking views from judges, magistrates, professionals across the criminal justice system and as many people as possible interested in the sentencing of these offences. We would like to hear from anyone who uses sentencing guidelines in their work or who has an interest in sentencing. We would also like to hear from individuals and organisations representing anyone who could be affected by the proposals including:

  • victims and their families;
  • defendants and their families;
  • those under probation supervision or youth offending teams/supervision;
  • those with protected characteristics: age, disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.

What did we want to know?

We prepared a consultation paper to set out the Council’s thinking. We were particularly interested in views on:

  • the principal factors that make any of the offences included within the draft guidelines more or less serious;
  • the additional factors that should influence the sentence;
  • the types and lengths of sentence that should be passed;
  • Whether there are any issues relating to disparity of sentencing and/or broader matters relating to equality and diversity that the guidelines could and should address; and
  • anything else you think should be considered.

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