HMA v David McFarlane

At the High Court in Glasgow today, 13 September 2019, Lord Clark sentenced David McFarlane to three years’ imprisonment after the accused was found guilty of perjury.

On sentencing, Lord Clarke made the following statement in court:

“David McFarlane, you have been found guilty of the serious crime of perjury.

“About two years ago, an accused was facing a forthcoming trial, with the charges involving brutal and violent offences.

“In advance of that trial you said in a precognition on oath that he had in fact been at your house on one of the dates when the offences were committed. You also said on oath that you were sure of the date, because it was your sister’s birthday. So, you spoke in support of an alibi for that accused.

“However, he then pled guilty to committing the offences, including on the date in question when you said he was at your house. You were then charged with perjury.

“Your position at trial – that you had simply made a mistake and that he had stayed with you on a different night – was rejected by the jury. The jury concluded that you had deliberately given false information on oath.

“I have taken into account everything said on your behalf this morning by Mr Findlay QC, including your personal circumstances and the absence of any significant or analogous convictions. I have also had regard to the terms of the criminal justice social work report.

“I have also read and taken into account the contents of the letters from your family members and from the medical practitioners and I note the role that you play in supporting your elderly mother and your sister, who are both in poor health.

“However, I must also take into account that the criminal prosecution in respect of which you committed perjury involved very serious charges. The nature of the perjury was plainly significant: it was in support of an alibi that was false.

“Such perjured evidence is aimed at defeating the proper administration of justice, although I also accept that, as it turned out, it had no impact upon the outcome of the case because the accused pled guilty.

“As the Court of Criminal Appeal in Scotland has said: ‘Perjury must always be seen as a serious crime, since it strikes at the fundamental basis of our system of justice and at the integrity and accuracy of the decisions reached in courts. It follows that when perjury is established, it must be dealt with seriously for the benefit of the courts and the public generally. Everyone should be made fully aware that, when an oath is taken in a court of law to tell the truth, that is what must be done.’ (Singh v HM Advocate 2005 SCCR 604)

“In the whole circumstances, there can be no alternative to a custodial sentence. You are sentenced to three years’ imprisonment, backdated to 20 August of this year when you were first remanded in custody.”