Perjury: definition and sentence

I have received a lot of traffic to my blog regarding perjury following Tommy Sheridan’s conviction yesterday for perjury.  A lot of the hits have come from searches looking for a definition of perjury in Scots Law and what the sentence for perjury is.  This blog post aims to answer those questions.

Simply put a person commits perjury when they wilfully and unequivocally make a false statement while giving evidence in any judicial proceedings, this may be by way of oath or affirmation.  Hume opined that the accused must have acted wilfully and corruptly.  Essentially a person must make a statement that they know to be false and it must be made according to their will (i.e. someone who makes a statement that turns out to be false recklessly or unkowingly would not have committed perjury.

The court has traditionally taken a hard line in sentencing for perjury, for example in the mid ninteeth centuary the Court issued a sentence of infamy and seven years transportation for perjury (Innes Hawks and James Buchanan (1846) Arkley 201).  The maximum sentence that can be handed down to a person convicted of perjury is life inprisonment, although one would have to conclude that for the court to hand down a life sentence it would have to be a particulalry serious case of perjury.

In 1983 the Court of Criminal Appeal quashed a four year sentence and reduced it to a sentence of three years inprisonment in the case of a seventeen year old who had plead guilty to a charge of perjury in relation to evidence given during a rape trial (Hagen v HM Advocate 1983 SCCR 245).

The above is not, and should not be considered as, full and proper legal advice.  I am not a qualified legal practitioner in Scotland and cannot provide legal assistance or advice.  The above is for reference only and I accept no liability for any loss that results from using the above information.  You should seek proper legal counsel from a fully qualified practitioner should you find yourself being accused of perjury.

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