Interference with Witnesses
Interfering with Witnesses is a serious offence and treated as criminal contempt of court. There is no maximum penalty for criminal contempt. Penalties can include imprisonment or fines, or both.
Contempt proceedings may be brought by the court, police, the Director of Public Prosecutions or the Attorney-General.
The Offence of Interference with Witnesses
It is contempt of court to intimidate witnesses in a manner that is likely to deter them from giving evidence or to influence their giving of evidence.
Contempt of court is an offence under the common law. This simply means that it is simply not written into any legislation but is still recognised by the courts.
What Actions Might Constitute Interference with Witnesses?
The following actions could form the basis of a charge of contempt of court:
- Assaulting, threatening or abusing a witness or potential witness
- Bribing or attempting to bribe a witness
- Preventing a witness from receiving a summons or subpoena
- Punishing a witness for giving evidence
What Must Be Proven
To be found guilty of contempt for interference with witnesses, it must be proven that you had some appreciation that the person to whom the conduct is directed was a witness or potential witness. It does not need to be proven that the witness was actually deterred or influenced.