The law on false accusations in New South Wales

The law in New South Wales, much like the rest of Australia, is designed to help society work effectively, protect people from harm and uphold rights and obligations. It’s far from perfect, but the judicial system works every day to uphold a sense of justice for everyone.

The criminal legal process is often set in motion by an accusation against an individual, but these accusations aren’t always accurate. Sometimes, a false accusation comes about with no intent of malice: the case may involve a confusing set of circumstances, or a witness may make a mistake or have clouded judgement.

You can’t get in trouble for making an accusation if it was reasonable for you to believe it was true or it was otherwise made in good faith.

However, section 314 of the Crimes Act 1900 describes the potential penalties for intentionally making a false accusation. If you knowingly accuse an innocent person of a crime with the intention of having them investigated by the police – or to divert an investigation to a different path – you could be sentenced to imprisonment for up to seven years.

Examples of false accusations

There are many ways in which a person may commit this offence, which is considered interference in the administration of justice under the Crimes Act 1900. Common examples include accusing a former partner of a crime in order to gain revenge, making a claim against someone you don’t like in order to ruin their reputation, or making an accusation to prevent one’s own embarrassment. Sometimes, people make false accusations against a person to protect the real perpetrator – perhaps a friend or family member – or to force consequences such as eviction from a property.

What needs to be proven

If someone is charged with making a false accusation and taken to court, the prosecution must be able to prove a number of factors in order to establish guilt. They must prove beyond reasonable doubt that:

  1. You made the accusation
  2. You intended for the person to be investigated
  3. You knew the accusation wasn’t true
  4. You were aware the accused person was innocent of the crime

Possible defences against a charge of false accusation

There are a number of ways this charge can be disputed based on disproving or casting doubt on the prosecution’s claims regarding any of the above factors. Possible defences include:

  • You did not make the accusation
  • You had no intention of having the person investigated
  • You believed the accusation to be true and that the accused had committed the crime

If you have been falsely accused of a crime, or been accused of making a false accusation, contact Powerhouse Law now for advice and representation from our experienced lawyers.

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