Construction worker Reuben Barnes, whose death at age 16 was the subject of an inquest in Queensland
by Mary W Maxwell, PhD, LLB
Those who can, do – as someone once said. When it comes to inquests of a controversial nature, the committing of perjury my be along the lines of “those who can, do.” Consider the case of a policeman or prison guard accused of killing a prisoner. Will they lie at the inquest? I think they will if they feel assured that perjury charges will not be brought.
That is to say, they know they “can” — so they “do.”
I believe that police brutality, in many jurisdictions, is policy. So is cruelty in jail. So is the battering of members of a minority race. The cop or prison guard who does it seems to know he won’t get in trouble.
Likewise with the crime of perjury, many people who lie in court are protected from being charged. So they lie like rugs.
Gumshoe has shown that in the Boston Marathon trial of Jahar Tsarnaev, ‘eye witnesses’ give absolutely preposterous evidence. Jahar’s court-appointed defense team did not even bother to cross-examine the offending witnesses. That is sufficient proof (to me) that the whole game is a set-up with government approval.
I will cite one instance of this. A witness at Jahar’s trial said, under oath, that he saw the clothing being cut off the boy at the side of the boat in Watertown. Another witness later said he saw the clothing being cut off at the hospital. Logically both of them can’t be right. But no one – certainly not the judge – raised an eyebrow. Anything goes.
Those who can, do.
I was wondering if any perjury has occurred at the Lindt Café Inquest. There have been some statements made as to what went on that day in December 2014 that I consider unbelievable. If by any chance the entire terrorist incident was planned by the government, we should expect that lying witnesses are relaxed. They need not fear punishment.
It is not possible to comment on that at this stage, so this article is merely going to be a list of “the unexpected.” That is, a list of cases in which the liar copped it.
1. Vancouver, Canada
Headline June 16, 2015: “Ex-Mountie Convicted of Perjury at Taser Death Inquest”
It seems that RCMP constable Benjamin Robinson violated God’s law “Thou shalt not bear false witness” and also the law of Canada. It had to do with tasering a man named Robert Dziekanski at an airport because – said the Mountie – he was throwing furniture around.
The man died. The Crown lawyer recommended a term of one and a half to three years for perjury by the ex-Mountie at the inquest. The Canadian Press said:
“Robinson’s defence lawyer says his client should get a conditional sentence because he was suffering from post-traumatic stress and substance-abuse issues when he testified at the inquiry.”
My goodness. What ever happened to “If he’s loyal and true he’s a Mountie”?
2. The Brixton District of London
March 28, 2013:
“Officers arrested police sergeant A, 50, at his place of work on suspicion of perjury and perverting the course of justice, police constable B, 29, at an address in south London on suspicion of perjury and perverting the course of justice, and retired police constable C, 48, by appointment at a central London police station on suspicion of perverting the course of justice.”
In this case, dating back to 2008, a 40-year-old man with schizophrenia destroyed a gazebo and hit a passerby. Staff at his hostel called the police who didn’t arrive for three hours. When they did arrive they handcuffed him and then held him in a prone position for 8 minutes.
An inquest jury found that the three policemen used unnecessary force on him that contributed to his death.
I don’t know if they received any punishment for hurting the man, perhaps no charges were brought (typical if the deceased had no family — or of the family did not know they could file a complaint).
Those who can do, perhaps, but in regard to the perjury – which is a species of “perverting the course of justice” in UK (as it is also in Australia) — the jury said “Nope, they can’t.” “Nope, you can’t.” Yay, Jury!
3. Queensland, Australia
Headline from Brisbanetimes.com.au: “Man ‘gave false evidence’ over insulation death.”
This had to do with installing pink batts in a new home in Rockhampton in which three workers were electrocuted. One of them, 16-year Reuben Barnes, died.
“It’s believed the perjury charge relates to a claim the man made that he inspected the Stanwell worksite on the morning of Reuben Barnes’s death and filled out a safety form.
The scrapped home insulation program is currently the subject of a Royal Commission, which last week heard from former prime minister Kevin Rudd, former environment minister Peter Garrett and former climate change minister Greg Combet.”
Now there’s a thought. Shouldn’t Australia’s former prime minister, Tony Abbott, be called to the current inquest to testify whether it was he or someone else who made the decision not to chat with Monis? That was one of Monis’ two rather amazingly simple requests to end the siege.
Sample of Coroner’s Findings
In the case just mentioned about the death of Reuben Barnes, the finding have been published – 74 pages long. I quote the section dealing with perjury:
Referral – s48
Section 48 provides that if as a result of the information gathered during an investigation a coroner reasonably suspects a person may have committed an indictable offence the coroner must refer the information to the Director of Public Prosecutions. …
In this case that provision requires I consider whether the evidence given by Mr Christopher Jackson raises a suspicion he committed perjury and whether the principals of some of the registered installers committed offences against the Workplace Health and Safety Act or the Electrical Safety Act.
The Criminal Code (Qld), S. 123, provides relevantly as follows:
Any person who in any judicial proceeding, … knowingly gives false testimony touching any matter which is material to any question then depending in that proceeding, or intended to be raised in that proceeding, is guilty of a crime, which is called perjury.”
Section 119 Criminal Code defines “Judicial Proceeding” as follows:
“…any proceeding had or taken in or before any court, tribunal or person, in which evidence may be taken on oath.”
Mr Jackson gave evidence in relation to two matters which were material to questions “then depending in (the) proceeding” which may have been knowingly false, namely:
- That he filled out a Work Method Statement (‘WMS’) for the job at Stanwell early on the morning of 18 November 2009 and left it with Gaven Feeney. The WMS included issues relating to assessment of risk. Mr Jackson purports to have written the words “In through roof; earth leakage in powerbox” as part of a risk assessment that he personally conducted prior to the job being commenced.
- That Mr Jackson accompanied the three workers – the deceased, the foreman Gaven Feeney, and worker Brian Callaghan – to the site at Stanwell and there did a further risk assessment prior to the job being handed over to the foreman and work commencing.
These are matters material to the question I must determine during the inquest, namely, how Rueben Barnes died. The other workers who were present on the morning of the incident deny that Mr Jackson attended the incident site or undertook the risk assessment as he claimed.
Submissions made on his behalf seem to acknowledge that his evidence was erroneous but suggest that was a result of stress rather than being “knowingly false”. In my view that is an issue for the DPP to consider when determining whether charges should be laid. Accordingly, I consider I am obliged to refer the information for the DPP’s consideration.
— Mary W Maxwell lives in Adelaide. She is running a series on the Lindt Café Inquest in which she endeavors to shed light generally on the way coronial inquests work.
Photo credit: Brisbanetimes.com.au