A person may be charged with perjury if he/she knowingly provides false evidence to the Court while under oath, which is a promise to tell the truth. The Courts view perjury seriously because it undermines the administration of justice.When it comes to sentencing people who have committed perjury, the starting point is typically a prison sentence, but the Court may consider alternative sentencing options depending on the circumstances of the case.

The lawyers at our firm have experience in representing people charged with lying to the police in relation to a murder investigation, lying about who was the driver of a car that killed someone and lying about who was the driver in a speeding ticket case.

Perjury must be committed “in the face of the court”. So, it is not always straight forward what amounts to perjury. Signing a document that is a lie does not necessarily amount to perjury.
Signing a Document
Perjury charges are generally heard by the County Court.
What is the legal definition of Perjury?
Perjury is defined as:

Giving upon oath, in Court, evidence which was material to some question in the proceeding and the person giving the evidence knew that the evidence was false.1

Examples of Perjury
  • Giving evidence that your partner was at home with you when they were alleged to have committed an offence, even though they weren’t
  • Giving evidence that you were not the driver of the car when you were
  • Providing a sworn statement to Police which says that you were not involved in an altercation when you were
“Can the Prosecution prove you knowingly provided false evidence?”
There is no specific legislation for Perjury as this is a common law offence.

Elements of the offence
To establish a perjury charge, the Prosecution must prove the following elements beyond reasonable doubt:

  1. The accused was under oath
  2. The accused made a false statement
  3. The accused knew the statement was false

[1] R v Traino (1987) 45 SASR 47.
If a person has been charged with perjury they may rely on the following defences:
  • He/she did not intend to mislead the Court
  • He/she did not know that their evidence was false
  • He/she honestly thought they were telling the truth
Questions in cases like this
  • Did you know that your evidence was false?
  • Was your evidence false?
  • Did you in fact provide a sworn statement?
If you have been charged with perjury, you should call us to discuss your case with one of our experienced lawyers. Deciding on whether to plead guilty or not has huge consequences for you and should be made after proper discussion with a criminal lawyer.

Perjury (Common Law) is a serious offence and attracts a maximum sentence of 15 years imprisonment.

Sentencing in the higher courts
Between 2011 and 2016, 29 people were sentenced for perjury in the higher Courts and received the following sentences:2

  • 34.5% received a prison sentence
  • 13.8% received a Community Correction Order
  • 3.4% received an adjourned undertaking, which is a promise to be of good behaviour
Sentencing in the Magistrates’ Courts
Between 2013 and 2016, 73 people were found guilty of perjury in the Magistrates’ Court and received the following sentences:3

  • 9.6% received a prison sentence
  • 23.3% received a Community Correction Order
  • 34.3% received a fine
  • 12.3% received an adjourned undertaking, which is a promise to be of good behaviour