Uphold the Rule of Law

Do you remember Marcus Einfeld? He was the former judge who was jailed for providing a false statutory declaration asserting that he was not driving his car when it was photographed by a speed camera travelling at excess speed.

At the heart of this offence is the requirement by all citizens to tell the truth when making statements under oath. As a result of his falsehoods, Einfeld was publicly humiliated, professionally discredited and incarcerated. In my opinion the consequences were entirely appropriate to the circumstances.

Under the Statutory Declarations Act 1959 (the Act) and the Statutory Declarations Regulations 1993 (the Regulations), a person who wilfully makes a false statement in a statutory declaration is guilty of an offence and may be fined or jailed, or both, as was the case with Marcus Einfeld.

Given that every statutory declaration includes a notice of the penalties for making a false declaration, the decision to deliberately lie is a serious one.

In my mind, if that lie comprises allegations against a police officer in the process of doing his duty, which are then exposed and yet go unpunished, something is clearly wrong.

But that is exactly what appears to have happened in Sydney recently.

The media reported that a police officer stopped a driver for not having her ‘P’ plate affixed to the vehicle appropriately. After requesting her license, he then asked her to remove her face-covering veil so he could compare the photo with her facial features.

Shortly thereafter, the young woman went to the media making allegations of racism, claiming she was shouted at and described how she was scared her veil was going to be ‘grabbed’. She also documented these offences in an official complaint (statutory declaration) about the officer’s behaviour to police headquarters.

After capturing her side of the story on camera, the media outlet contacted the police department who allowed them to view the footage captured from the officer’s car. It showed that the allegations were without substance and the officer had acted entirely appropriately.

Thus far the woman has not been charged with making false statements that, if not for technology, could have ruined the career of a police officer. There were no reports that the woman even apologised to the officer when her lies were exposed.

Now this is only one incident but the possible implications of it should not be underestimated. How can those who make false statements against the very people we entrust to uphold law and order go unpunished?

While the circumstances in assessing the penalty to be applied for swearing false statements will always need to be considered, applying no penalty for making demonstrably false claims of racism and physical intimidation against one of our officers would appear to be a failure to uphold a key plank in our legal system.

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