Perjury

  1. What is the legal definition for the term perjury?
    1. a) Perjury means the offence of willfully telling an untruth or making a misrepresentation under oath. This offence falls under section 191 of the Penal Code:

      Whoever, being legally bound by an oath, or by any express provision of law to state the truth, or being bound by law to make a declaration upon any subject, makes any statement which is false, and which he either knows or believes to be false, or does not believe to be true, is said to give false evidence.

      b) The definition of “to fabricate false evidence” is in turn defined by section 192 of the Penal Code:

      Whoever causes any circumstance to exist, or makes any false entry in any book or record or electronic record, or makes any document or electronic record containing a false statement, intending that such circumstance, false entry, or false statement may appear in evidence in a judicial proceeding, or in a proceeding taken by law before a public servant as such, or before an arbitrator, and that such circumstance, false entry, or false statement, so appearing in evidence, may cause any person, who in such proceeding is to form an opinion upon the evidence, to entertain an erroneous opinion touching any point material to the result of such proceeding, is said “to fabricate false evidence”.

      Following from the above, we can refer to a decision:

      In the High Court in Koh Pee Huat v Public Prosecutor [1996] 2 SLR(R) 816; [1996] SGHC 175

      The appellant was charged on two counts for fabricating false evidence under section 192 of the Penal Code, namely: (a) for falsely affirming that he was unemployed in an affidavit which was used in a maintenance summons action; and (b) for falsely affirming in an affidavit, which was used in support of an originating summons, that the handwriting in an exhibit annexed to the same was that of his wife, and not his. The trial judge held that the appellant was guilty on both counts and sentenced him to six months’ imprisonment on each of the charges, the sentences to run concurrently. He appealed against conviction and sentence.

      c) In the book Sentencing Principle in Singapore, the learned author wrote that:


      To make out the offence, note that it is not enough that a false statement was made. The person must firstly have been “legally bound by an oath, or by any express provision of law to state the truth”, or have been “bound by law to make a declaration upon the subject” when making the false statement.

      It is doubtful whether an accused satisfies such a requirement when entering a false mitigation plea. Under the current practice:

        (a) the mitigation plea is presented informally – either from the Bar (if the accused is represented) or from the dock;

        (b) written pleas, where tender, do not contain any special attestation by the accused as to the truthfulness of their contents; and 

        (c) the presentation of mitigation plea is not regulated by legislation. It is essentially a judicial practice that has evolved to ensure informed sentencing, in line with the principle of audi alteram partem.

  2. In Singapore’s context, is perjury classified as a misdemeanour/minor or a serious offence?
  3. Section 193 of the Penal Code,

    Whoever intentionally gives false evidence in any stage of a judicial proceeding, or fabricates false evidence for the purpose of being used in any stage of a judicial proceeding, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 7 years, and shall also be liable to fine; and whoever intentionally gives or fabricates false evidence in any other case, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 3 years, and shall also be liable to fine.

    In the High Court in Koh Pee Huat v Public Prosecutor [1996] 2 SLR(R) 816; [1996] SGHC 175 (at [75]), the Judge stated that

    An offence under s 193 of the Penal Code for fabricating false evidence used in any stage of a judicial proceeding is a very serious one, carrying a mandatory imprisonment term that can extend to seven years.

  4. Why is perjury considered as a crime against justice?
  5. a. In the District Court in Public Prosecutor v Phang Chwee Seng Anthony [2007] SGDC 284 (at [15]), the Judge cited an English case R v Warne (1980) 2 Cr App R (S) 42 where perjury in judicial proceedings also carries a maximum of seven years’ imprisonment, it was said:

    “Perjury is one of the most serious offences on the criminal calendar, because it wholly undermines the whole basis of the administration of justice, be it in a magistrates’ court or in the Crown Court or any other higher court, and that is why it is a matter which must carry a sentence of imprisonment.”

    b. The Judge in Public Prosecutor v Phang Chwee Seng Anthony [2007] SGDC 284 (at [15]) also cited the case of Rahman Pachan Pillai Prasana v PP [2003] SGHC 52 (at [19]):

    “In a sense, the true victim of the offence of perjury is not an individual, but the course of justice itself. Judicial proceedings require all evidence to be as truthful as possible: the proper administration of justice is thwarted by false evidence whether or not such evidence leads to unfair gains or losses to an individual.”

  6. What are some examples of perjury?
  7. We can refer to several decisions:

      a. In the High Court in Tan Mui Teck v Public Prosecutor [2003] 3 SLR(R) 139; [2003] SGHC 162:

      “The appellant appealed against his conviction of six charges under s 193 of the Penal Code for giving false evidence in a civil suit by stating that he had witnessed certain documents being signed by his former employees. He also appealed against his total sentence of 24 months’ imprisonment.”

      b. In the High Court in Choo Pheng Soon v Public Prosecutor [2001] 1 SLR(R) 115; [2001] SGHC 14:
      
“The appellant was charged under s 193 of the Penal Code with intentionally fabricating false evidence, namely, written agreements and acknowledgements for payments of monies, for the purpose of use in a judicial proceeding between him and the complainant.”

  8. How can the legal system prove that a witness is lying under oath?
  9. The court will look for two things:

      a. Cross-examination of the consistency of a person’s statement and in the affidavit
      b. The consistency of the available objective documentary evidence and plaintiff’s statement

    Following the above, in the High Court in Tan Mui Teck v Public Prosecutor [2003] 3 SLR(R) 139; [2003] SGHC 162 (at [21]):

    “As to Tan’s evidence, it was clear that the judge was not impressed. Tan was described as an evasive and illogical witness whose testimony was riddled with inconsistencies… Given the circumstances, the judge rightly concluded that Tan had made up these facts under pressure during cross-examination.”

  10. When perjury is evidently present in court, what is the validity of the statements given by witnesses or the legally signed documents of a particular court case?
  11. Generally, it appears that such statements may lose their validity if it is false. Otherwise, the statement may still be valid but lesser weight may be placed upon them unless it is corroborated by an independent evidence.

    In the High Court in Tan Mui Teck v Public Prosecutor [2003] 3 SLR(R) 139; [2003] SGHC 162 (at [20]):

    “18 With regard to the evidence of the trio, the judge found them to be consistent in their testimony and under cross-examination. The judge was conscious of the fact that the trio might have a bias but found that there was no evidence of collusion between the trio to concoct an artificially consistent story for the court. He also noted that there was no evidence that the trio were all working for Ivan’s new company after their resignation from the Company, as Tan had alleged. Further, the parties had already settled their civil suit in the form of a Consent Order long before the criminal proceedings began.

    20 That having been said, the failure to prove a lack of collusion was not fatal to the Prosecution in this case. In Lee Kwang Peng, I made the following observation at [109]:

      … If, however, there is independent evidence that may be capable of supporting or verifying the evidence of the complainants, I do not think it matters whether this be classified as corroboration or as evidence that goes to prove the Prosecution’s case that there was no motive for fabrication – as either way, provided the independent evidence is of sufficient probative value, the allegation of conspiracy would be defeated.

    Here, I was of the view that Mr Yap’s opinion on the signatures constituted independent evidence supporting the evidence of the trio that the signatures were not genuine. This discounted the element of conspiracy amongst the trio.”

    Here, I was of the view that Mr Yap’s opinion on the signatures constituted independent evidence supporting the evidence of the trio that the signatures were not genuine. This discounted the element of conspiracy amongst the trio.”

  12. What is the penalty for perjury in Singapore?
  13. a. Under section 193 of the Penal Code, Punishment for false evidence.

    “Whoever intentionally gives false evidence in any stage of a judicial proceeding, or fabricates false evidence for the purpose of being used in any stage of a judicial proceeding, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 7 years, and shall also be liable to fine; and whoever intentionally gives or fabricates false evidence in any other case, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 3 years, and shall also be liable to fine.”

    b. Under Section 194 of the Penal Code, Giving or fabricating false evidence with intent to procure conviction of a capital offence.

    “Whoever gives or fabricates false evidence, intending thereby to cause, or knowing it to be likely that he will thereby cause, any person to be convicted of an offence which is capital by this Code, or under any other law for the time being in force, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 20 years, and shall, if he is not sentenced to imprisonment for life, also be liable to fine; and if an innocent person is convicted and executed in consequence of such false evidence, the person who gives such false evidence shall be punished either with death or the punishment hereinbefore described.”

    c. Under section 195 of the Penal Code, giving or fabricating false evidence with intent to procure conviction of an offence punishable with imprisonment.

      “(1) Whoever gives or fabricates false evidence, intending thereby to cause, or knowing it to be likely that he will thereby cause, any person to be convicted of an offence which by this Code or under any other law for the time being in force is not capital, but punishable with imprisonment for a term of 7 years or upwards, shall be punished as a person convicted of that offence would be liable to be punished.

      (2) Whoever gives or fabricates false evidence, intending thereby to cause, or knowing it to be likely that he will thereby cause, any person to be convicted of an offence which by this Code or under any other law for the time being in force is not capital, but punishable with imprisonment for life, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 20 years.”

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