Public officers who lie to the Corruption and Crime Commission are being hit with fines that are 10 times more expensive than the penalty for the offence they chose to lie about.
In a recent case before the Perth Magistrates Court, a former Department of Mines and Petroleum officer was fined a total of $12,500 for giving false testimony to the Commission while being questioned about an offence that later attracted a $1,000 fine.
The 63-year-old was convicted of fraud after he falsely claimed $1,040 from his employer for accommodation that actually cost $640. On June 14, Magistrate Robert Young fined the man $1,000 with $129 costs. He was also ordered to pay $400 reparation.
However, the fraud penalty was in addition to fines totalling $12,500 which were imposed the previous week after he was convicted of five counts of giving false testimony for repeatedly lying to the Commission when he was being questioned about the inflated accommodation claim.
Another former mining inspector who was convicted last year over the same accommodation fraud was also fined $1,000 for that offence. But he, too, paid the price of lying to the Commission when he was separately fined a further $7,500 for three counts of giving false testimony.
CCC Director of Legal Services, Paul O'Connor, said lying to the Commission was foolish and invariably made things worse for the offender.
"It's a really bad decision. The courts take lying to the Commission very seriously and the fines they impose are intended to provide a deterrent. It is very expensive," Mr O'Connor said.
"In both of these cases we had officers who committed a fraud to gain a relatively small benefit of $400 that resulted in a $1,000 fine. But in choosing to lie to the Commission they elevated the gravity of their offending and both ended up with substantially greater penalties.
"It really makes no sense. These types of offences leave a trail and once we start looking you will get caught. The worst thing you can do is to lie about it as well."
Deputy Chief Magistrate Elizabeth Woods said giving false testimony to the CCC was a serious offence not unlike perjury in court or perverting the course of justice: "I think each of them are fortunate to be in the category of getting a fine because these are the sorts of offences which go to the heart of the system, in my view. You know, imprisonment is not that far away," she said during sentencing.