A prosecution for perverting the course of justice
Specific Public Interest Factors
A prosecution for perverting the course of justice is more likely to be required where:
- a false complaint was motivated by malice;
- a false complaint was sustained over a period of time (particularly where there were opportunities to retract);
- the person originally accused was charged and remanded in custody;
- the person originally accused was tried, convicted and / or sentenced;
- the suspect has previous convictions or out-of-court disposals relevant to this offence, or a history of making demonstrably false complaints. This needs to be carefully assessed – a history of withdrawing support for allegations will not necessarily amount to a propensity to make false allegations for the reasons set out above. This will only be a relevant factor if there is clear evidence of such a history;
- the person originally accused was in a vulnerable position or had been taken advantage of; and / or
- the person originally accused has sustained significant damage to his or her reputation.
When wasting police time is being considered as the appropriate charge, a prosecution is more likely to be required where:
- public / police resources being diverted for the purposes of investigation for a sufficient period;
- where a substantial cost is incurred – for example, where expensive scientific examination has to be undertaken;
- considerable distress is caused to the accused by the reporting;
- where the false report alleges that a particularly grave offence has been committed;
- there is significant premeditation in the making of the report; or
- the complainant persists with the allegation, even when challenged.
It follows that, in order to make such an assessment, it will be important that prosecutors are presented with all background evidence available about the suspect, such as any mental health issues or learning difficulties, their age and intellectual maturity, their mental capacity in understanding the nature of the allegation made and whether they have any other vulnerabilities, such as being a victim of sexual or domestic abuse, or if they misuse any substances. The vulnerability of the complainant needs to be properly understood and taken into consideration. Prosecutors should ask whether there any indication that further support / intervention is required over and above a criminal justice outcome?