Under s 5(2) of the Criminal Law Act 1967 (CLA 1967), it is an offence to cause a wasteful employment of the police by knowingly making a false report – either orally or in writing – to the police or anyone else that:
- an offence has been committed;
- there is a real threat to the safety of any persons or property; or
- they have relevant information concerning some police enquiry
If you are caught wasting police time you could be jailed for up to six months and/or fined. Instead of taking you to court, the police might issue you with a fixed penalty notice under the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001 (CJPA 2001). This means you will have to pay a £90 fine but you won’t get a criminal conviction (the details will still go on the police computer though).
Perverting the course of justice
If a false report you made has particularly serious consequences, the police could charge you with perverting the course of justice instead, which carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. Police are more likely to charge you with this more serious offence, rather than wasting police time if:
- the false report was motivated by malice;
- you continued to stick to your false story, even when there were ample opportunities to retract;
- you falsely accused someone of a crime and they were charged and remanded in custody or tried, convicted and / or sentenced;
- the person you falsely accused suffered major damage to their reputation;
- you have a history and/or previous convictions of making false reports.