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Royal Commission Offences

In a Commonwealth Royal Commission, contempt is punishable by the head of the Commission who has all of the powers of a High Court Judge in that respect.

Witnesses giving evidence before a Royal Commission established by the Commonwealth are liable to the following offences 3 and Pt 3 of the Royal Commissions Act 1902 (Cth):

Offence
Maximum Penalty
Obstructing the Commission

  • Failing to attend a hearing if you are required as a witness
  • Failing to produce documents that you are required to produce
  • Refusing to be sworn or make an affirmation, or to answer any question relevant to the inquiry put to you by any of the Commissioners
  • Giving false or misleading evidence
  • Doing anything that results in the destruction, concealment or mutilation of a document or thing that is or may be required in evidence before the Commission
 

$1000 or 6 months imprisonment

$1000 or 6 months imprisonment

$1000 or 6 months imprisonment

$20,000 or 5 years imprisonment
$10,000 or 2 years imprisonment

Offences relating to Witnesses

  • Bribing a witness to give false testimony or withhold true testimony
  • Practicing fraud on a witness (e.g. by making false representations to
    him/her with the intention of affecting his/her testimony)
  • Preventing a witness from attending before a Royal Commission
  • Causing injury (by violence, punishment, damage, loss or disadvantage) to a person for appearing as a witness, giving evidence or producing documents before a Royal Commission
  • Dismissing an employee for appearing as a witness before a Royal Commission
 

5 years imprisonment

2 years imprisonment

1 year imprisonment

$1000 or 1 year imprisonment

$1000 or 1 year imprisonment

Contempt

  • Intentionally insulting or disturbing a Royal Commission,
  • Interrupting the proceedings of a Royal Commission
  • Using any insulting language towards a Royal Commission
  • Writing or saying anything that is false and defamatory of a Royal Commission
 

$200 or 3 months imprisonment

$200 or 3 months imprisonment

$200 or 3 months imprisonment

$200 or 3 months imprisonment

Before a Victorian Royal Commission, the question of contempt is referred to the Supreme Court.

Witnesses appearing before Victorian Royal Commissions, a limited range of offences apply under ss 16, 19 and 20 of the Evidence (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1958 (Vic) and s 314 of the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic):

Offence
Maximum Penalty
  • Failing without reasonable excuse to attend as required or to
    produce any documents as required by the summons
  • Once before the Commission, refusing to be sworn or without
    lawful excuse refuses or fails to answer any question touching the
    subject-matter of inquiry or to produce any document
  • Giving false evidence under oath before a Commission (perjury)
15 penalty units ($2165.40 in FY13-14)
or 3 months imprisonment15 penalty units ($2165.40 in FY13-14)
or 3 months imprisonment15 years imprisonment