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Perjury in Family Courts

Matthews & Norris [2018] FamCA 341 (9 May 2018)

15. In respect of the father, the mother’s contempt application confronts two impediments. First, her mere belief in the father’s dishonest evidence does not prove his dishonesty. Parties often have quite different perceptions about the circumstances surrounding their litigious disputes. Their disparate perceptions may be capably explained by honest mistake, not just by dishonesty. The mother is wrong to presume that any inconsistency between the evidence given respectively by her and the father necessarily proves the father’s mendacity. Secondly, even if the mother is correct and the father did lie in his evidence in one or more respects, the remedy for the  perjury  is not a contempt application filed with this Court. The jurisdiction of this Court to punish a contempt committed in its face should be exercised with great caution and be resorted to in only the clearest of cases (Re: Colina; ex parte Torney [1999] HCA 57(1999) 200 CLR 386). The intentional provision of false evidence could conceivably be construed as an abuse of process which tends to interfere with the due administration of justice, but is not the essence of contemptuous conduct. If it were otherwise, contempt applications for giving false evidence would be commonplace and not then reserved for cautious use in only the clearest of cases, as the High Court stipulated. Giving false evidence is an offence so, instead, the mother should report her allegation of the father’s  perjury  to the Director of Public Prosecutions (Cth) for investigation and, if thought warranted, his prosecution for an offence under s 35 of the Crimes Act 1914 (Cth).

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