Perjury to be made easier to prosecute under new law

Lying in court to be made statutory offence and extended to commissions and tribunals

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan is expected to bring forward amendments to a new Bill that would place perjury on a statutory footing. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan is expected to bring forward amendments to a new Bill that would place perjury on a statutory footing. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

The extension of a new statutory offence of perjury to include commissions of investigations and tribunals is to be brought to Cabinet for approval.

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan is expected to bring forward amendments to a new Bill that would place perjury on a statutory footing.

Perjury, intentionally lying in court, is currently a common law offence and is rarely prosecuted. It is expected that by introducing a statutory offence it will make perjury easier to prosecute. And it is hoped that the new provisions will help with cases of insurance fraud.

Mr Flanagan is also seeking to broaden the Perjury and Related Offences Bill, which began life as a Private Members’ Bill sponsored by Senator Pádraig Ó Céidigh, to include commissions of investigation and tribunals of inquiry.

The Minister is proposing further amendments so that the maximum penalty on indictment of perjury is similar to offences in the Civil Liability and Courts Act 2004. Under this Act, fraudulent actions in personal injury cases can be punished by fines of up to €100,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years, or to both.

CervicalCheck

Separately, Minister for Health Simon Harris will also bring to Cabinet legislation to establish a tribunal for women affected by the CervicalCheck controversy.

The proposal follows recommendations of Mr Justice Charles Meenan and will establish an adjudicative tribunal.

Mr Harris is expected to tell his Cabinet colleagues that the tribunal, which will be chaired by Ms Justice Mary Irvine, will be optional. Women, or their next of kin, can still choose to go to court.

The tribunal’s hearings will be held in private, unless the woman or the next of kin requests it to be held in public. A plan for “trust meetings” will also be discussed at Cabinet.

The tribunal will be expected to facilitate these meetings, and they will allow the women, or the next of kin, to discuss their experiences in relation to CervicalCheck.

The content of these meetings will not be used in any legal proceedings but a report on these matters can be sent to the Minister.

The establishment of a tribunal was first recommended by Justice Meenan in a report that was given to Government last October.

Mr Harris commissioned the report in response to controversy over the screening programme sparked by Limerick woman Vicky Phelan, who has cervical cancer, settling a High Court action in April over the reading of her smear test.

It later emerged that more than 200 women were not informed of an audit that revised their earlier, negative smear tests. Many are taking legal cases against the testing labs and the HSE.