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Perverting the course of justice: Sentencing guidelines

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Perverting the course of justice is a serious criminal offence. If you are facing a charge of perverting the course of justice, it is important to understand the sentencing guidelines for the offence and what the potential consequences could be if you are convicted.

We have dealt with many cases relating to often serious cases such as murder, violence, shooting and gangs. This can extend to driving matters, sexual offences or any matter involving the potential for police or authorities or prosecution.

In this article, we discuss the offence of perverting the course of justice in closer detail, including information surrounding the potential penalties that can be handed out.

While we hope this information is useful, please note, it should not be taken as legal advice. If you need legal support with allegations of perverting the course of justice, then please get in touch and our team can advise you.

What does perverting the course of justice mean?

The offence of ‘perverting the course of justice’ covers a wide range of actions which are carried out with the intention of hindering or misleading the administration of justice, the work of the police, prosecutors and courts. Perverting the course of justice can be committed by someone accused of a criminal offence, or another party such as a witness, or even if you try to hinder a witness.

Charges of perverting the course of justice can arise during any type of criminal investigation.

What actions does perverting the course of justice include?

The offence of perverting the course of justice is wide ranging, which means that a variety of actions could be considered.

Common examples of perverting the course of justice include:

  • Concealing evidence
  • Tampering with evidence
  • Providing false information during interview
  • Helping someone to evade arrest
  • Intimidating a witness while a case is ongoing
  • Interfering with jurors during a court case

Where two or more people are deemed to have committed any of these actions as part of a wider agreement, they could be considered to be conspiring to pervert the course of justice.

How is perverting the course of justice proven?

Note that the outcome of a criminal case does not have to have been impacted for someone to be convicted of perverting the course of justice. It simply needs to be demonstrated that the act took place, and this could have had an effect on a case’s outcome.

That said, even if a planned act did not take place, the mere act of ‘planning’ may be enough evidence for someone to be found guilty of perverting the course of justice.

What are the sentencing guidelines for perverting the course of justice?

Perverting the course of justice sentencing guidelines will be determined by the nature of the criminal case that was interfered with, and the consequences of said interference. In addition to this, an offender’s level of culpability, and the harm caused, will also be taken into consideration.

As per Sentencing Council, the maximum sentence for perverting the course of justice is life imprisonment, while the offence range is between a Community Order and 7 years’ custody.

When determining a sentence for perverting the course of justice, the court will reach an assessment of an offender’s culpability, which will fall into one of three categories:

  • A – High Culpability
    • Conduct over a sustained period of time
    • Sophisticated and/or planned nature of conduct
    • Underlying offence very serious
    • Breach of trust or abuse of position or office
  • B – Medium Culpability
    • Other cases that fall between categories A and C because:
      • Factors are present in A and C which balance each other out and/or
      • The offender’s culpability falls between the factors described in A and C
  • C – Lower Culpability
    • Unplanned and/or limited in scope and duration
    • Unsophisticated nature of conduct
    • Underlying offence was not serious
    • Involved through coercion, intimidation or exploitation or as a result of domestic abuse
    • Offender’s responsibility substantially reduced by mental disorder or learning disability

The level of harm caused is also divided into three categories:

  • Category 1
    • Serious consequences for an innocent party as a result of the offence (for example time spent in custody/arrest)
    • Serious distress caused to an innocent party (for example loss of reputation)
    • Serious impact on administration of justice
    • Substantial delay caused to the course of justice
  • Category 2
    • Suspicion cast upon an innocent party as a result of the offence
    • Some distress caused to an innocent party
    • Some impact on administration of justice
    • Some delay caused to the course of justice
  • Category 3
    • Limited distress caused to an innocent party
    • Limited impact on the administration of justice
    • Limited delay caused to the course of justice

Various other mitigating and aggravating factors will also be considered when it comes to sentencing for perverting the course of justice.

Credit for guilty plea

In short, where a guilty plea is indicated at the first stage of proceedings, you could receive a reduction from 1/3 of a penalty for perverting the course of justice.

More information regarding the potential outcomes for indicating a guilty plea can be found here.

What can I do if I’m accused of perverting the course of justice?

If you are accused of perverting the course of justice, it is essential that you have the support of a specialist criminal defence solicitor, as this can ultimately make all the difference when it comes to sentencing.

At JD Spicer Zeb, our expert criminal defence solicitors have over 45 years of experience in advising on a wide range of matters, with our high level of expertise being reflected through our Law Society accreditation in Criminal Litigation. We have a strong track record of success and our many years of practice have allowed us to establish close relationships with many of the country’s leading criminal defence barristers.

This means, if you are accused of perverting the course of justice, or need any guidance with perverting the course of justice legislation, we are well place to provide you with the support you need.

Related matters

Please note that our expert solicitors also provide support with various matters related to perverting the course of justice, including:

Fees and funding

Our team are always fully transparent when it comes to costs.

If you need to attend court, legal aid public funding will be available in certain cases. This will be based on the seriousness of the case and whether it justifies the grant of public funding.

For clients who do not qualify for legal aid public funding, the alternative will be to fund a case on a private basis.

To find out more about the way we handle fees (both legal aid public funding and private fees) for perverting the course of justice, please use the links provided below:

Speak to our criminal lawyers today

If you are due to attend the police station in relation to perverting the course of justice, require any urgent specialist advice, or immediate representation, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

You can contact our specialist criminal defence lawyers in London, Birmingham and Manchester by telephone on:

Or email: solicitors@jdspicer.co.uk

Alternatively, you can fill out our quick online enquiry form, and we will get back to you quickly.

24/7 legal representation for perverting the course of justice

Please get in touch for a free consultation with one of our expert criminal defence solicitors, as well as immediate representation and advice for perverting the course of justice.

We are available to represent clients all over England and Wales at any time, so please contact our Emergency Number at 07836 577 556.

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If you believe your case is likely to have serious consequences for you now, or in the future and you have the means to pay for this service

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How can we help?

Common questions

We always work with the most experienced and best leading UK barristers, KCs (Kings Counsel). We cover all criminal cases 24/7 at the police station and court. Offices in London, Birmingham, and Manchester cover cases across England and Wales. We can offer Legal Aid and affordable Private fee agreements. We can see you the same day, including virtually. Our Senior Partners supervise all of our cases.

How quickly do you respond?

We respond quickly even during out of hours. We do not get our work by paying for online adverts but based on the fact that few criminal law firms can match our 45 years of experience. Most of our cases are still from word-of-mouth recommendations from satisfied clients. We are called daily by dissatisfied clients from firms with less experience than us. We respond very quickly to new enquiries. We know what clients seek and so we update clients rapidly.

Can you get cases dropped?

Yes, read about the recent cases we've helped our clients with here.

We always keep you updated and give straightforward advice. We will get cases dropped early where the case is weak or should not be prosecuted. We will be upfront with you about where you can benefit from a good result with an early guilty plea, such as a discount on your sentence. As we work on cases across all levels with clients from all walks of life, we are excellent at giving clear, spot-on advice. As an established firm, we can allocate a whole team to your case often at short notice to secure evidence to minimise the damage to you. 

Have you won any awards?


"JD Spicer Zeb demonstrated a clear commitment to client service through their work with vulnerable and diverse individuals in what can be severely traumatic circumstances".

Do you offer free consultations?

Where it is possible, we aim to provide an initial consultation to you. If we can speak to you, we can if required inform you about  –

  • Whether we can take the case on and our relevant experience.
  • Public and private funding benefits.
  • Assistance in applying for legal aid where we are likely to accept instructions.
  • An outline of options in police interview only. We will not advise you on which option to adopt.
  • Providing our free written guide explaining the police station process.
  • The gravity of routine and day-to-day offences you face.
  • Consequences of not attending the court or police station.
  • Consequences of interfering with any witnesses.
  • Retaining any evidence in support of your case.
  • If possible an outline of the elements of the offence that the police or CPS must prove.
  • This consultation will normally be by telephone or email and will only be for as long as we deem necessary to establish if we can act for you. If we cannot usefully give you any advice in this manner then we will not continue with the consultation. We will not discuss the case in depth for you to be able to decide on your plea or any significant aspect of the case, as this cannot be undertaken informally.
  • Referring you, if possible, to other firms for matters out of our specialism or if we cannot help.

Consultations do not apply to the following cases –

  • If we do not intend to take the case on.
  • Road Traffic cases, drink driving, drug driving, driving bans, speeding, no insurance, mobile phone use, points etc.
  • In all cases where we do not have the capacity to take your case or the availability of suitably qualified staff to provide an initial free consultation. This is applicable in all cases but especially where a more senior lawyer is required because of your personal needs or the complexity of the case.
  • Harassment/stalking/ coercive behaviour/malicious communications or road traffic cases and most sensitive cases. These cases are often too complicated to assess in short consultations.
  • The locations concerned may be too distant to represent you adequately or it may not be cost-effective for you or us.
  • The case is too complicated to assess or raises various charges or facts, complexity, or history to be considered informally or in a short consultation.
  • In most Legal aid transfers where legal aid is granted to another firm except in very grave cases, we may assess the case and merits for a transfer.
  • If your relationship has broken down with your existing solicitor or several solicitors.
  • If you have been released under investigation and have already had a police station attendance. 
  • If you hold legal aid with another firm and seek a second opinion.
  • If you are calling on behalf of the client as a friend or family member unless you have full authority and full facts.
  • To businesses.
  • Advising whether you were given good advice by your other solicitor.
  • Whether to decide to plead guilty or not guilty.
  • Whether you have an arguable defence in law or factually complicated defences.
  • Any advice you have had after your first court appearance.
  • Any advice on appeal on conviction or sentence.
  • If we feel we are unable to communicate with you.
  • If we are likely to be conflicted or breach our professional rules.