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? Continue reading “A prosecution for perverting the course of justice”→
Once a person has been proven to have wasted police time, a penalty of up to six months imprisonment and a fine can be issued.
When authorities consider charges against those who waste police time, prosecutors will determine when the offence occurred and whether it is possible for an out of court penalty to be issued.
The police may decide to issue a fixed penalty notice to offenders as per the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001. If a fixed penalty notice is issued, the offender will need to pay a fine of £90, but they will avoid a criminal conviction.
A record will be held on police computer systems, but the offence will not necessarily impact job prospects and any future criminal cases.
There are a number of offences that are similar to that of wasting police time. This includes:
Wasting police time is a criminal offence as outlined under section 5(2) of the Criminal Law Act 1967. Knowingly making false reports to the police is an offence, including verbal or written statements that:
Someone has committed an offence
That people or property are at real risk
That the reporter has information that is relevant to a police enquiry.
For proceedings to be brought for an offence of wasting police time, the Director of Public Prosecutions must initiate proceedings or give consent for initiation. This type of offence is a summary only, and this means that proceedings must begin within the summary time limit of six months.
An offence committed by someone who causes wasteful employment of the police by making a false report about an offence or by implying that a person or property is in danger or that he has information relevant to a police inquiry.
People can be tempted to make false reports to the police for a number of reasons. It may be to make up financial loss, for insurance purposes, to avoid other criminal offences or even to avoid getting into trouble with their family or loved ones.
Examples can include people leaving their vehicles unattended with the keys in the ignition but making a false report as their insurance would not cover them. It can also include children making false reports about crime to avoid getting in trouble with their parents for being late.
What could happen to people making false reports?
Making a false report could lead to a fine, a conviction for wasting police time or even a prison sentence for the more serious offence of perverting the course of justice. The offence carries a maximum penalty of six months imprisonment.
Less serious cases may result in a fine of £80 for people aged 16 or over and £40 for under people under 16 years old.
What The Times say is that the study they are referring to found ‘“surveillance” of Facebook accounts was common. Social workers used fake profiles to “friend” parents in cases where their posts were not publicly viewable. They watched parents’ relationships and behaviour, looking out for factors such as abusive partners or drug use.
Oddly, I’ve been able to find no trace of this study and it has been suggested that what is being referred to is some sort of leaked draft. No matter, the point is that it chimes with my own experience. Social workers do this stuff because it is a very effective way of seeing whether parents are walking the walk as well as talking the talk. You’d be surprised how often parents will insist that their lifestyle is all Little House on the Prairie, but their Facebook feed suggests it is rather more Kardashian (I don’t really know who the Kardashians are but I believe they have big bottoms and very exciting lifestyles). And of course parents/ex partners harvest and produce this stuff too when warring over children or divorce.
Many would say that if it’s on a public Facebook page it is fair game, and if it shows a child is at risk it should be admitted in evidence (and can you just stop complicating things please, Reed?). Those are reasonable perspectives. But just because something is a good idea or is a means to an end, doesn’t mean its lawful. And where it is the state gathering and using this material there is a pretty good chance that it isn’t lawful at all (parents need not panic this applies to situations where social workers are looking at and gathering data about private individuals).
So. The law. Do you have a caffeinated drink and a stress ball handy? Then I’ll begin. What follows is merely a sketch, not a comprehensive guide.
Social workers are employed by local authorities. As such, when they are carrying out their job they are acting as agents for a public authority. The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 regulates surveillance of private individuals (you and me) by public authorities (NB same probably also applies to CAFCASS guardians and reporting officers).
The 2000 Act regulates this activity not by saying what is unlawful, but by providing a route to give authorisation for specific types of covert surveillance – it’s a piece of shield legislation. That is to say that if a public authority sticks to the requirements of the Act it is protected against claims under the Human Rights Act. If it doesn’t, it’s fair game and may find itself liable under various bits of law (tort, criminal, human rights, privacy etc etc). Unless of course some other law specifically authorises the activity.
Surveillance ‘includes monitoring, observing or listening to persons, their movements, conversations or other activities and communications.’
It’s ‘covert’ if it is carried out in ‘a manner calculated to ensure that any persons who are subject to the surveillance are unaware that it is or may be taking place’.
RIPA divides covert surveillance into ‘directed’ or ‘intrusive’ surveillance. In short intrusive is surveillance of people’s homes and cars. Directed surveillance is surveillance that doesn’t qualify as ‘intrusive’, but is conducted for the purposes of a specific investigation and likely to result in the obtaining of private information about any person.
It seems like it wasn’t just a matter of survival, but almost pride—and actively rejecting the values of society.
Somehow it becomes a part of the family identity. It’s what they believe in. The Bogles were also very clannish. They hang out with themselves, they didn’t have a lot of other friends and they didn’t allow their kids to play with other kids from other families. They just played with their own relatives, and that was another factor in their story. They didn’t want other people to know what their lives were like, and so they all let the kids grow up where the family knew what their parents or their aunts and uncles, and grandfathers and grandmothers were like and they didn’t know much about other folks. So being cut off from the rest of society was a factor. Continue reading “What Happens When Your Dad Raises Your Whole Family to Be Criminals”→
Under the English common law, an accomplice is a person who actively participates in the commission of a crime, even if they take no part in the actual criminal offense. For example, in a bank robbery, the person who points the gun at the teller and demands the money is guilty of armed robbery. Anyone else directly involved in the commission of the crime, such as the lookout or the getaway car driver, is an accomplice, even if in the absence of an underlying offense keeping a lookout or driving a car would not be an offense.
An accomplice differs from an accessory in that an accomplice is present at the actual crime, and could be prosecuted even if the main criminal (the principal) is not charged or convicted. An accessory is generally not present at the actual crime, and may be subject to lesser penalties than an accomplice or principal.
At law, an accomplice has lesser guilt than the person he or she is assisting, is subject to lesser prosecution for the same crime, and faces the smaller criminal penalties. As such, the three accomplices to the bank robbery above can also to a degree be found guilty of armed robbery even if only one stole money.
The fairness of the doctrine that the accomplice is still guilty has been subject to much discussion, particularly in cases of capital crimes. Accomplices have been prosecuted for felony murder even if the actual person who committed the murder died at the crime scene or otherwise did not face capital punishment.
In jurisdictions based on the common law, the concept of an accomplice has often been heavily modified by statute, or replaced by new concepts entirely. Continue reading “Accomplice”→
The offence of wasting police time (section 5(2) of the Criminal Law Act 1967) is committed when a person:
Causes wasteful employment of the police by knowingly making to any person, a false report orally or in writing tending to:
show that an offence has been committed;
give rise to apprehension for the safety of any persons or property; or
show that he has information material to any police inquiry.
Wasting police time is a summary only offence and proceedings may only be instituted by or with the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) as set out in section 5(3) of the Criminal Law Act 1967. Proceedings must be started within the six month summary time limit, from the date on which the complaint was made, not from when the falsity of the allegation was suspected or detected. It is important when considering charges of wasting police time in such cases, that prosecutors pay due attention to the date of the commission of the offence, and whether other options such as an out of court disposal are appropriate after taking the full facts into consideration. Continue reading “Wasting Police Time”→
Perverting the course of justice is a serious offence. It can only be tried on indictment and carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. The offence is committed where a person:
does an act (a positive act or series of acts is required; mere inaction is insufficient);
which has a tendency to pervert; and
which is intended to pervert the course of public justice.
The course of justice includes the police investigation of a possible crime (it is not necessary for legal proceedings to have begun). A false allegation which risks the arrest or wrongful conviction of an innocent person is enough. The word pervert can mean “alter” but the behaviour does not have to go that far – any act that interferes with an investigation or causes it to head in the wrong direction may tend to pervert the course of justice. All the prosecution needs to prove is that there is a possibility that what the complainant has done “without more” might lead to a wrongful consequence, such as the arrest of an innocent person (Murray (1982) 75 Cr. App. R. 58).
Intention is not the same as motive. However, the motive of the complainant is likely to be important if the public interest stage is reached. The prosecution must prove an intention either to pervert the course of justice or to do something which, if achieved, would pervert the course of justice. All that is necessary is proof of knowledge of all the circumstances, and the intentional doing of an act which has a tendency, when objectively viewed, to pervert the course of justice.
Where the prosecution case is that a false allegation has been made, all that is required is that the person making the false allegation intended that it should be taken seriously by the police. It is not necessary to prove that she / he intended that anyone should actually be arrested (Cotter  2 Cr. App. R. 762). Continue reading “Perverting the Course of Justice”→