It was not that long ago that Jeffrey Archer was convicted for perjury and perverting the course of justice for lying in a libel case, when disputing allegations that he had paid for sex.
Archer had made two mistakes:
- To think that lying in Court was a preferable option than to admit he had performed -in the words of Justice Caulfield- ‘cold, unloving, rubber-insulated sex in a seedy hotel’.
- To lie in a UK Court, as a plaintiff.
Because had Mr. Archer’s strayed in Spain, or rather had he chosen to lie in a Spanish Court, no conviction could have ever been passed since, unlike most common-law systems, Spanish laws do not contemplate perjury as a criminal offence. In fact, quite the contrary: claimants and defendants are entitled, in fact expected, to lie in Court.
The key legal precept is article 24.2 of the Spanish Constitution that states, inter alia, the following: “…Likewise, all persons have the right to…no make self-incriminating statements…to not declare themselves guilty.”
But make no mistake as to who can lie in Court: witnesses will be prosecuted if they do so for ‘false testimony’ (falso testimonio), a charge that carries prison terms. Also, you can be charged with falsely reporting a crime if you employ deceit (denuncia falsa) and likewise, be convicted of a crime.
In everyday judicial practice, the above distinction can be easily noted: claimants and defendants are not required to give their statements under oath whereas witnesses will have been previously sworn (warned too).
In my opinion, creating two types of liars (those who are allowed to and those who aren’t) causes Court cases to become protracted because defendants will be less prone to admit liability, even if wrongdoing is obvious, just because there are no legal consequences to prevaricating.
A recently example about this relates to two Luxembourg-based bankers who were deposed in Court: they lied shamelessly about their involvement in an Equity Release case and so did the representative for the bank, who was close to denying that their own publicity that was no longer available (yet still traceable via www.waybackmachine.com) was ever produced. I doubt these bankers would have chosen to mislead if they were tried in English Courts.