Wednesday 21 November 2018

Perjury bid to punish people who make false personal injury claims

  • Lawyers supporting move to bring in a perjury act to punish people who make false personal injury claims
  • Bill would make perjury a statutory offence, as opposed to being an offence under the common law
Stock photo: PA
Stock photo: PA
Charlie Weston

Charlie Weston

Lawyers are supporting a move to bring in a perjury act to punish people who make false personal injury claims.

It comes after a private members' bill, which would make perjury a statutory offence, was recently introduced in the Oireachtas.

The Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association (Isme) has been arguing that the current perjury laws are too difficult to prosecute.

There is only one known case of a person being convicted for providing a false statement in a personal injuries case.

This is despite the fact several claims have been thrown out in recent years after evidence emerged clearly contradicting the plaintiff's version of events.

The Perjury and Related Offences Bill 2018 was introduced by Senator Pádraig Ó Céidigh and co-sponsored by Senator Michael McDowell, Senator Ian Marshall and Senator Victor Boyhan. The second stage debate will take place this week.

The bill would make perjury a statutory offence, as opposed to being an offence under the common law, which is law that is derived from custom and judicial precedent rather than statutes.

This means common law is less defined than a statutory offence, and so harder to secure a prosecution under.

Ken Murphy, director of the Law Society, the body which represents solicitors, said the society has long been on record as supporting the criminal prosecution of fraudulent claimants.

"Accordingly, we completely support this bill's objective of facilitating such prosecutions where the evidence exists to warrant them," he said.

He added the Government has promised committee stage amendments designed to make the bill more effective.

"We look forward to reviewing the bill in its final amended form," he said.

Isme chief executive Neil McDonnell said: "We have campaigned for more than a year for the introduction of a statutory offence.

"It is a disgrace that our courts are weekly hosts to a tragicomedy of lies, told in order to extort damages from innocent motorists, business owners and householders for false or exaggerated personal injuries."

He said a statutory offence of perjury will not eliminate these claims, but it will place dishonest claimants in real moral hazard when they go before a judge.

"We also look forward to the impact a robust perjury statute will have in tackling white-collar crime."

Mr McDonnell pointed out that most other western jurisdictions have perjury on the statute books, including the UK, where it appears to be much easier to prosecute the offence.

The call for a perjury act echoes a submission on white-collar crime by the Competition Authority in 2011, which pointed out a new act would make it easier to prosecute the offence rather than having to do so under the existing common law.

Irish Independent

Business Newsletter

Read the leading stories from the world of Business.

Also in Business