I find you in contempt!! or not?
January 7, 2012 6:19 AM   Subscribe

How seriously do UK county courts take false statements made in writing by defendants?

Let us say that there is a case for recovery of a few thousand £s in a UK county court and the defendant (landlord) submits a statement in which he goes way out of his way to make a false claim, then he repeats it several times. Stating these claims catagorically gives him an advantage in this hearing.

The claimant is able to show on the basis of documents that these claims are entirely false.

On a scale of "all hell breaks loose" to "naughty, naughty...are you sure you dont want to withdraw it mr. defendant" where is a judge in a county court likely take/

[for the more legal minded, under what circumstances is the judge likely to use his powers in part 35]
posted by london302 to Law & Government (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I meant part 32
posted by london302 at 6:22 AM on January 7, 2012

I'm not sure this is answerable beyond "1) don't lie to a court 2) if your opponent in the case lies to the court use it to your advantage."
posted by gerryblog at 8:20 AM on January 7, 2012

Unless it's extremely serious, it isn't likely to result in any sort of criminal action (such as a charge of perverting the course of justice or perjury). If the judge finds that the evidence has been wholly fabricated, deliberately, then it's more likely that the judge will order the losing party to pay costs on an indemnity basis.

Usually costs are only allowed at certain rates which do not necessarily reflect the actual hourly rate charged by the solicitors. So where indemnity costs are ordered, the winning party can recover all their costs, at the actual rate they pay. (This is still subject to challenge by the other party, and the solicitors may have to justify their costs at a separate hearing.)

This might be different if it's a claim under £5,000 where it's considered to be a 'small claim'.
posted by essexjan at 8:23 AM on January 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

A helpful article on indemnity costs here.
posted by essexjan at 8:25 AM on January 7, 2012

Depends upon the severity of the claims, how much of an advantage they gave, whether the defendant could have had a reasonable belief in their truthfulness, what kind of breakfast the judge had...

Findings of fact - i.e. which side's version is closer to the 'truth' is kinda what they do in County Court. Contempt of court or charges of perjury is not something they break out lightly, especially just because someone is massaging their side of the facts. On that basis, pretty much every party in any civil case would be behind bars.

I would imagine if the counter-documents are compelling, they will nullify the false claim, and swing the balance of the case against the defendant. I wouldn't expect much more than that unless there is a significant amount of intentional evidence fabrication going on.
posted by ArkhanJG at 8:29 AM on January 7, 2012

Stating these claims catagorically gives him an advantage in this hearing.

But it's not an advantage if, in the course the hearing, the other side shows the claims are fabricated. In that case the landlord's claims have damaged his own case, and the judge may well be content to leave it at that, apart from the costs issues mentioned above. There is more possibility of contempt-of-court type repercussions in the event that false evidence can be later shown to have led to an unsafe judgment in that party's favour.
posted by wilko at 12:54 PM on January 7, 2012

Don't underestimate the extent to which making false statements to a Court will cause the judge to view all other statements by that party with significant prejudice. Judges do not appreciate being treated like fools.
posted by driley at 3:38 PM on January 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thanks all for your responses. It turns out that the defendant needs to be a 'fit and proper' person in order to carry out his profession. Would it be worthwhile to make the court aware of that or is there too much a risk being seen too 'clever'?
posted by london302 at 4:08 PM on January 7, 2012

IANAL and I thibk this is the sort of question a lawyer could answer. However, what exactly does his profession have to do with your case? If it's not relevant then I am not sure you have anything to gain by mentioning it. And, as you suggest, something to lose.
posted by plonkee at 5:04 AM on January 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

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