A lawyer cannot knowingly allow or encourage a defendant to commit perjury by lying on the stand. However, can they encourage a lie by omission?

So for an example If I tell the police that I didn't have any blackmail material on some person when they asked me if I committed blackmail, but neglect to point out I still blackmailed them by bluffing them into believing I possessed the material. Or claiming I don't have a copy of some information their looking for but withholding the fact that's because I gave the information to a friend to hold for me etc.

Can a lawyer encourage these sort of misleading, but technically true, answers with the explicit intent of trying to mislead investigators, or jurors, into making a presumption they know isn't true? Would a lawyer encouraging this sort of behavior risk either legal sanctions or disbarment if it was known they were doing it?

  • Since you mention perjury, I assume this is about testimony under oath, right?
    – user6726
    Oct 27, 2020 at 17:49
  • @user6726 I was trying to keep it more generic, to both testimony under oath and also to claims made to the police when being investigated or right after being arrested but prior to trial.
    – dsollen
    Oct 27, 2020 at 17:52
  • I've had lawyers tell me that I should not say any more than what answers exactly what the other side is asking. Preferably in the source of "yes" or "no".
    – Ron Beyer
    Oct 27, 2020 at 21:04
  • If you are referring to any claim during interrogation, you should be aware the officers can make false claims in order to lead a person believe in something all inorder to obtain their end goal. There is the difference between saying a lie, and not saying the whole truth. Oct 28, 2020 at 3:18

1 Answer 1


This may not be perjury

Perjury is defined in s327 of the Crimes Act 1900 as making a false statement or oath in connection with judicial proceedings, material to the proceedings, knowing the statement is false or not believing it is true.

So ommission is not perjury but there is a fine line there - you have to believe the statements you do make are true. If you confine yourself to purely factual but misleading statements it is possible for you to genuinely believe they are true.

There is a distinction in Australian law between statements that are false and statements that are misleading; perjury requires the former.

But it's still illegal for the person on the stand

s319 contains the general offence of Perverting the Course of Justice:

A person who does any act, or makes any omission, intending in any way to pervert the course of justice, is liable to imprisonment for 14 years.

As well as the lawyer

s323 defines the crime of Influencing witnesses or jurors which involves doing any act to cause a witness "to give false evidence or withhold true evidence or to not attend as a witness or not produce any thing in evidence pursuant to a summons or subpoena".

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