Perjury

Perjury is the intentional act of swearing a false oath or falsifying an affirmation to tell the truth, whether spoken or in writing, concerning matters material to an official court proceeding.

This is an offence of willfully telling an untrue or making a misrepresentation under oath. In addition, if a person goes to court and gives any evidence which the person knows to be false, or which the person does not believe to be true, he commits the crime of perjury, and if he is discovered he may be prosecuted and sanctioned for it, in criminal law, See the case of R V. Peach (1990) 2 All ER 966.

However, whether or not the person is discovered and prosecuted for it, the party who is injured by the perjury has no right of civil action for remedy in respect of the perjury per se, although he may be able to go on appeal on other points of law in the proceedings in which the perjury was committed.

In the case of Hargreaves V. Bretherton (1958) 1 QB 45, (1958) 3 All ER 12, the plaintiff brought action for damages against the defendant on the ground that the defendant had falsely and malicious and without just cause committed perjury as a witness by giving false evidence at the trial of the plaintiff for certain criminal offences, and that consequently he the plaintiff had been convicted and sentenced to eight years imprisonment. The court held that no right of action lay as the plaintiff’s action was based on the purported tort of perjury; there is no tort of perjury.

In the case of Roy V. Prior (1971) AC 470, Evans V. London Hospital Medical College (1981) 1 WLR 184, the plaintiff sued the defendant for damages alleging inter alia that the defendant caused his arrest and forcible attendance at court to give evidence as a witness in a criminal proceeding by falsely saying in court that the plaintiff was evading a witness summons. It was held that there was no tort of perjury and therefore no cause of action lay against the defendant.

See also – Strict Liability; Damage and Liability in Tort; Public and Private Nuisance; Nuisance; Malicious Prosecution; False Imprisonment; Trespass to the Person

Literally, legal wrong without damage means legal wrong without loss. It is the breach of a person’s legal right but without damage to the person. Normally, in order to succeed in tort the plaintiff must prove that he has suffered actual damage (e.g. injury to his person or property or reputation) as well as legal injury.

There are some torts, however, where actual damage need not be proved and it is sufficient to show an infringement of the plaintiff’s legal rights (i.e. legal injury). Torts which are actionable without proof of damage are known as “tort actionable per se”, examples are trespass, which is actionable though no harm at all is caused to the land, person or chattel as the case may be, and libel (i.e. defamation in the written form) which is also actionable though no actual damage is proved.

The principle of legal wrong without damage or injuria sine damno is an exception to the general that there must be damage or injury, before action may e brought against a wrongdoer in tort. To succeed in a claim for compensation, in tort that is actionable per se, the plaintiff only needs to prove on the basis of probability, that the tort he alleges was committed.

However, the plaintiff need not go on to establish damage, except where he actually suffered damage, in which case the amount of damage the plaintiff will recover will accordingly be increased beyond nominal damages (Nominal damages is a small sum of money awarded as damages to someone who has suffered a legal wrong but no actual financial loss.

Examples of torts which are actionable per se, upon commission without the necessity of establishing damage includes:

  • Libel and sometimes slander
  • Trespass to person
  • Trespass to chattels
  • Trespass to land

Perjury. Perjury. Perjury. Perjury

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