Old Bailey Solicitors

What is the penalty for making false criminal accusations?

What is the penalty for making false criminal accusations?

Making an allegation of a criminal offence against another person can have far-reaching consequences. The implications for the accused can be life-changing: They may suffer damage to their reputation, lose their job, feel stigmatised by friends and family, or go to prison.

Resultantly (and you might think, quite rightly), it is a criminal offence to knowingly make a criminal accusation which is false, and the penalty for doing so can be significant.

Is it a criminal offence to make a false criminal accusation?

A person who has intentionally made a false criminal accusation may themselves be guilty of a criminal offence. In situations where a person has made an allegation and it is suggested that the allegation is false, or where a retraction statement has been made, the Crown Prosecution Service will consider whether one of the following offences may have been committed:

Wasting police time

Wasting police time is an offence contrary to section 5(2) of the Criminal Law Act 1967. The offence is committed when a person causes wasteful employment of the police by knowingly making a false allegation that an offence has been committed, which gives rise to either apprehension for the safety of persons or property or a belief that they have information relevant to a police inquiry. The report does not necessarily need to be made to the police and can be made orally or in writing.

Wasting police time is a summary only offence which means that it can only be tried in the Magistrates’ Court. Proceedings must be started within 6 months of the date on which the false allegation was made (not from the date on which the allegation was identified as being false) and may only be instituted with the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

There are no sentencing guidelines for an offence of wasting police time. The offence could attract up to the statutory maximum sentence of 6 months imprisonment, or a fine could be imposed. The police may offer a fixed penalty notice which would cost the person who is guilty of making the false accusation approximately £90, but would not result in a criminal conviction.

Wasting police time might be charged where the harm caused by the false allegation, or the culpability of the person making it, is reduced. This might be where, for example, there has been an admission that the original allegation was false (perhaps in a retraction statement) or where the original false allegation did not result in anyone’s arrest (meaning therefore there has been no deprivation of a person’s liberty) or where a person was not arrested or charged with an offence so  have not suffered any damage to their reputation as a result of the false allegation.

In comparison to an offence of perverting the course of justice (discussed below), wasting police time is a lower-level offence and it may be possible to persuade the police or the Crown Prosecution Service to consider an out of court disposal for this type of offence. Old Bailey Solicitors are particularly experienced at making written representations to the police and Crown Prosecution Service to try to persuade the police not to take a person to court and instead to resolve a matter without resorting to criminal proceedings.

Perverting the course of justice

Perverting the course of justice is a much more serious offence which can attract a sentence of life imprisonment. It is triable only on indictment which means that it must be dealt with in the Crown Court.

In order to be convicted of this offence, the prosecution must prove that a person has done a positive act, or a series of acts, which has a tendency to pervert and is intended to pervert the course of public justice.

A person who intentionally makes a false accusation and causes a police investigation into a possible offence having been committed, may be guilty of an offence. It is not necessary for the case to go to court; a police investigation which results in the arrest of an innocent person will suffice.

Why would someone make a false accusation?

In order to prove an intention that the false accusation was intended to be taken seriously by the police, the prosecution is likely to consider motive.

Many people will have heard the phrase, ‘there is no smoke without fire’. People often find it difficult to accept that a criminal allegation might be false, especially when the allegation is serious and when the consequences for the accused can be so severe. They, perhaps understandably, ask themselves why on earth a person might do such a thing? They conclude that there must surely be some truth to the allegation.

However, as a criminal defence solicitor with experience representing people who have either been the victim of a false allegation or who require advice because they wish to withdraw an allegation they have made, I can say with confidence that it absolutely does happen.

Often, but not exclusively, false accusations relate to allegations of sexual offences or offences that have taken place in a domestic setting. Motivation for making a false accusation of course varies, but more often than not, false allegations follow some sort of argument or disagreement, or take place within the context of a relationship break down. Put simply, the most common type of false accusation that I see stems from a person feeling as though they have been wronged; who perhaps wants to get their own back; with a desire for revenge. Scary, but true.

Can I retract a false criminal accusation?

All that said, retraction statements aren’t always made because a false allegation has been made maliciously. More common is the situation when an allegation, albeit truthful, has been made in a state of heightened emotion. A person may have called the police during or immediately following an argument with their partner or another family member, for example. They may have been upset and angry when they spoke to the police and exaggerated the facts of the alleged offence, or exaggerated how they felt, as a result of the emotion that they were feeling at that time. That is not the same as lying, or intending something to be false, but it may have resulted in a situation where the accused person appears more culpable than they truly are.

Similarly, the person making the allegation may not have intended the consequences that follow. They may not have realised the implications of making a statement to the police, or understood that they would, essentially, be supporting a prosecution as a result of signing a witness statement. They may have wanted police intervention, but not a prosecution.

In those circumstances, a person may wish to make a retraction statement to withdraw their initial  allegation. Clearly, deciding not to pursue a legitimate allegation is not the same as making and then retracting a false allegation. However, a person making a retraction statement must take care because if their initial allegation was untrue, they may themselves be guilty of a criminal offence and risk implicating themselves in an offence of wasting police time, or worse, perverting the course of justice, by making a further statement which suggests that they were lying.

How can we help?

Old Bailey Solicitors have experience of representing people accused of perverting the course of justice and of wasting police time. We recently successfully defended a client charged with perverting the course of justice by writing to the prosecution and persuading them that the evidence did not demonstrate an intention by our client to provide a false narrative of events, or an attempt to maintain that narrative. The charge was dropped.

Camilla Rents has particular experience assisting people who have made an allegation (false or otherwise) and require advice about the possible consequences or implications of making a retraction statement. To get in touch with our specialist team to discuss your specific situation, please contact us.

Camilla Rents headshot

Camilla Rents

Solicitor - Director

24 responses to “What is the penalty for making false criminal accusations?”

  1. George Perry says:

    If a person has a meeting with another person planning to have a scouse door man done for rape before she goes to the police is this against the law.
    Can she commit perjury in crown court and get away with it.
    Can a judge miss lead the jury by giving the jury the wrong evidence stating she was drunk but she said she was tipsy not drunk

    • Camilla Rents says:

      Thank you for your comment. Unfortunately, we are not able to give legal advice in these comments and we would require further information in order order to advise you as to the position in these scenarios. Please contact our New Enquiries Team on 0207 8464 999 and they can assist to put you in touch with one of our solicitors.

  2. Mohammed Karim says:

    Hi
    I have a case in magistrate court and I would like to proceed a counter criminal claim sgaindt the council for harassment under CPR

  3. The Surrey Police came to my front door on the 13th of April 2023. @ 00:20am.
    They are falsely accusing me of having a gun.
    I have complained.
    They have provided no evidence.

  4. Karen Warden says:

    A lady in the village has 3 years ago falsely accused a family of their child abusing lots of children within the school/village and found to be untrue by SS and School and by parents of some of the alleged victims themselves. She has a caution for harassment from this. The family moved away.
    April this year, the same women (school Mum) has made up that I verbally called her names and pushed her and I’m being investigated for this even with a witness that this is totally untrue and never happened. The Police have said there is nothing they can do about this women making up serious false allegations, how can this be true?

    • Camilla Rents says:

      We are sorry to hear about the situation in which you find yourself. Without an understanding of the specific circumstances of your case, we are unable to give you any advice. In very general terms, the first consideration for an investigatory body will be whether a person has made a complaint of a crime. If so, and if it is suggested that the complaint is false, the police will need to consider whether there is sufficient evidence to demonstrate that. Just because an allegation cannot be proved, or is denied, does not necessarily mean that it is false. Independent witness evidence and evidence of previous false allegations made by the same person, are among the relevant considerations. If you wish to discuss this further with one of our specialist defence solicitors, please call 020 7846 4999. We wish you the best of luck in defending your case.

  5. Deborah Brimmer says:

    I have had ongoing problems with a Beresford rentor..She as now contacted the police by saying I am the perpetrator. Today I had a community police come to see me to get both sides. This neighbour as abused me by shouting and swearing and banging my front door twice now. She as put a security camera up and sensor whereas I am the one getting hassle. The community police man said that she as made an allegation about taking pics of her children. I forgot to show him that the pics were on my phone and I was going to send them to Beresford’s to see the security camera and sensor. I still have them on my phone they are of the security camera and no children in the pics and she has not seen them anyway . They were taken early and she has blinds up so no kids in them …what can I do

    • Old Bailey Solicitors says:

      We are sorry to hear about the situation in which you have found yourself in, Deborah. Your requires specific advice, which we are not able to provide online here. Should you wish to speak to a solicitor, please call our Office Team on 0207 8464 999 to make an appointment for an initial consultation.

  6. martin says:

    my ex partner made false allegations about me to the police she told them that I sexualy assaulted her but in fact she filmed her self doing it to her self while I was in hospital that weekend she told me police use her for sex and make her do it and no matter how much I ring 101 or 999 or email them or complain about it they keep arresting me every time she makes false allegations even though their is 30 mins of video footage that she made of her self doing it to her self while I was in hospital the woman that lives in the flat below was drugging her and she was not able to consent or say no while she was used by as many and as long as her neighbour injected her and sold her all through the lock downs

    • Camilla Rents says:

      We are sorry to hear about the situation that you are having to contend with, which must feel incredibly unfair. If you require our assistance in relation to any criminal investigation that you are the subject of, please call our New Enquiries Team on 0207 8464 999 to make an appointment for an initial consultation.

  7. callum b says:

    I have been falsely accused of rape i hate life rn man

    • Old Bailey Solicitors says:

      We are sorry to hear about the situation that you are having to contend with, Callum. If you would like our sexual offences solicitors to advise you, please call our New Enquiries Team on 0207 8464 999 to make an appointment for an initial consultation.

  8. Michael Edwards says:

    My partner told my probation officer I tried to strangle her and my probation officer sent the police to my work to get me arrested but then I found out my partner only told my probation officer he was angry and wanted to hurt me any advice please

    • Camilla Rents says:

      Dear Michael, thank you for your comment and we are sorry to hear about your situation. Our new enquiries team would be more than happy to have a conversation with you to assess whether we may be able to assist you. Please feel free to call us on 0207 8464 999 to speak to a member of the team’ who will assist you.

  9. Kian Anthony says:

    If a Crown court document sent to a defendant before a plea hearing has listed the wrong charge on it misleading them on what theyr’e actually pleading to, this after the police failed to give the defendant a charge sheet, what could be done about it if anything? Thanks

    • Old Bailey Solicitors says:

      Dear Kian, thank you for reaching out to Old Bailey Solicitors with this question. The answer to this question is not straightforward and would depend on what documentation is in question. I would suggest you contact our specialist criminal law team on 0207 846 4999 to discuss your personal circumstances as they will be able to advise you in more detail.

  10. Hi false allegations does this pertain too false statements made by social services of local council re conduct about situations that never happened can I apply for legal aid unfortunately due too health and the fact as a result of, the above my physical and mental health has suffered immeasurably there has been a considerable time delay I wish too bring a case against local authority re this many thanks

    • Old Bailey Solicitors says:

      Thank you for your comment. Unfortunately, this does not appear to be something that we can help with. You may wish to consult a family lawyer if the decision you wish to dispute is one that has been made by social services. Alternatively, you could contact a law clinic or the Citizens Advice Bureau if you require further signposting. We wish you the best of luck with your enquiry.

  11. Helen Wrench says:

    My husband had me arrested for control and coercive behaviour and two counts of assault. His statement is all lies which I have evidence to prove it all to be false. It is currently awaiting a decision to charge me or not after the police have investigated I have not been able to give my evidence to prove my innocence except witness statements from our children (over 18) who lived with us during the times of me being accused which state that it was him that was controlling, aggressive and abusive. My husband had mental health issues and abuses alcohol and has previously been diagnosed with paranoia. He has subsequently filed for divorce. My estate for him to claim against is £1.5 million and his due to his lifestyle has nothing. He has or is planning on using this false claim to his advantage in our divorce. Can I do anything about his false statement?

    • Old Bailey Solicitors says:

      Thank you for your enquiry, Helen. We may be able to provide you with advice in conference regarding the situation you have described. Please contact our new enquiries team on 0207 8464 999 to discuss your requirements. .

  12. Fort says:

    My partners ex sent him a message today accusing him of sexual relationship with his step daughter. This is so unreal because she’s done this same accusation to two other men now she’s doing this because their relationship broke down 3 months ago

  13. Marcio Joao Da Silva Teixeira says:

    Hello I been assaulted from to man’s inside my business I got a front teeth broke on the time I got two customers them is my witness I call police to came after the assault them came and arrested the two man’s but on same time came a lady wife of one of the man’s and make false allegations of rape against me inside my business on public road front of my business and customers police ask me if I rape this lady and my answer its no I never see her in my live but she told police my husband fight with him because in the morning he push me inside the work shop and rape me inside the toilet and police just arrested the two man’s and the lady going away this false allegations created problems on my brain I been out of my job per 3 weeks and I don’t want stay at home this make got problems with my wife and children at home just I want to be out of every ones the question is why police don’t report this false allegations because till today this don’t make sense on my brain and after on month I received a comercial illegal evection here I been arrested till today I don’t got my business and belongs since 11july 2022 I live with anxiety and disorder and Court just adjourned the hearings I received 12 bail from trespassing my business with all my belongs and customers belongs inside whitout lease per 6 years police been involved its this criminals from Albanian them buy my business and stolen all my belongs whitout Court orders them make peacefully reentry and take advantage of my business and customers

    • Camilla Rents says:

      We are very sorry to hear about your situation. If you require ongoing representation in relation to the matter for which you are under investigation, please do not hesitate to contact our new enquiries team on 0207 8464 999.

  14. James says:

    Hi, I understand that solicitors don’t really offer any advice for free.

    I’ve read into this topic.

    What this page doesn’t touch on is, somebody can accuse somebody of anything with just hunch, that it could be a person, but without actual hard evidence, a lot of time may pass by since the allegation or evidence of what ever is happened.

    So that may not cover wasting time or perverting the course of justice. Framer may be a word.

    I think the law requires only suspicion, which is dangerous depending on the allegation. I don’t know if that is a scenario that happens often or not.

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