False Accusations are a Crime in New South Wales

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By Amy Sarcevic and Ugur Nedim

As children, many of us heard the fable about the boy who cried wolf. For most of us, the story did its job and we learned never to make false assertions, for fear of being ignored the next time we needed someone to listen. But somewhere along the way, some of us forgot this age-old lesson.

Sadly, false accusations are rife in the legal system, and have the potential to ruin the lives of innocent people.

Perhaps one of the most devastating examples is somebody being falsely accused of abusing his or her own child – a claim sometimes made to bolster the accuser’s position in parenting proceedings.

Instances like this are surprisingly common. Research cited in a report by the Australian Institute of Family Studies suggests that one in five accusations about child sexual abuse may be made out of malice.

The problem is so serious that it caused a retiring Family Court justice to call for additional measures to address the issue of parents using false claims of child abuse as a “weapon” to stop spouses from seeing their children.

Here’s some information that may assist you if you are falsely accused.

A false accuser can face serious consequences

Currently, there are laws which impose severe penalties for such conduct. One of these is under section 314 of the Crimes Act 1900, which prescribes a maximum penalty of seven years in prison for false accusations made with the intention of subjecting an innocent person to an investigation.

In addition, under section 117 of the Family Law Act, the courts have discretionary powers to make “cost orders”, meaning that your spouse may have to pay your legal fees if they are caught out making a false allegation against you.

While many who make false claims escape the direct consequences, there are certainly others who have faced both criminal prosecutions and civil proceedings for compensation over their misconduct.

According to the Judicial Commission of NSW, 50 percent of those who pleaded guilty or were found guilty of making a false accusation between January 2018 to September 2019 were sentenced to full time imprisonment; with the remainder receiving intensive correction orders, community correction orders and section 9 good behaviour bonds.

The statistics are on your side

Consistent with global trends, only a fraction of child abuse claims made in Australia are substantiated. Out of 355,935 child abuse notifications made to the AIHW made in In 2015 to 16, only 60989 were authenticated, while a high number could not be proven.

Also, despite the commonality of false accusations in the Family Court, the research shows that very few result in an unfavourable outcome for the falsely accused parent.

The Australian Institute of Family Studies found that 97 percent of fathers retained visiting or parenting rights, despite allegations made against them.

That said, being the target of such a claim can work against you during court proceedings.

A range of bodies are tasked with determining the credibility of claims

Whether you have a case in the criminal or family law courts, there are various bodies tasked with determining the credibility of claims of child neglect and child abuse offences.

These include state and federal police forces; and special Joint Investigation Response Teams comprising police officers, members of the Department of Family and Community Services (or FACS), medical examiners and counsellors.

These will work together to determine whether a child is at risk and if there is a reasonable suspicion that a crime has occurred.

Criminal defence lawyers also undertake investigations on behalf of those who are charged with – or suspected of – child abuse.

This process can include engaging private investigators and other experts, interviewing witnesses, serving subpoenas on various bodies and communicating with prosecutorial bodies.

They may seek to establish flaws in such claims; prevent charges from being brought; or push to have brought charges withdrawn and false accusers criminally prosecuted.

Establishing good character can help

Part of the investigative process may involve an inquiry into whether the accused person has previously committed similar offences, or any criminal offences at all.

Evidence of good character, such as a clean or unsubstantial criminal record, gainful employment and contributions to the community can help overcome serious claims such as child abuse.

Remaining vigilant is the key

Above all, it is important to be proactive when faced with a false accusation, and not give up in the face of a vindictive party, seeking to use their claims against you as a “weapon” to further their interests.

Keeping or obtaining materials which undermine claims – whether on your own or through a professional on your behalf – can put you in a strong position when it comes to countering the accusations and seeking justice against a false accuser.

So, remain vigilant, be strong and don’t let a vengeful person get the better of you, especially when it comes to your relationship with your children.

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  1. Stephen Kolostyak

    I need to know what my rights and powers are in response to false stalking allegations.and defamation.

  2. Roslyn Mitchell

    I need to know what to do legally about this

    A family member has falsely accused me of having/ spreading covid 19.
    I have Negative test result document and have excellent health

    The main motive the accuser does this is to control my sister who is living with intellectual disability and paranoid schizophrenia..and to exile me from all other family.
    I want to make a police statement.
    And follow up on legal consequences

  3. Jimmy M Smith

    I have had a few admissions in the Manning base hospital .and as always they accuse me in taking ETOH .and use the word denial .often and felt shot down to pieces feeling depressed .and with anxiety .I don’t know what ETOH is .I get the impression they falsely accuse me in taking drugs .I never have taken drugs in my whole life.i always had a healthy outlook in life and in the general public people always say I look younger than my age .

  4. james

    After evicting some deadbeat tenants over a year ago, I start receiving prank calls. I told them to get lost and now one of them has claimed an AVO against me. The report filed to police is full of lies such as claiming to be “room mates’ and incidents fictitious people who are fake profiles from the internet, even though these jerks only lived here for two weeks. I need help with pressing charges for public mischief and false statement to police

  5. Danielle

    A neighbour has made false allegations against my partner who has been arrested and currently in jail. This evening Monday 14th June 2021, this same neighbour was heard by several people saying that he lied to the police. How do I go about reporting this or do I just call the police.

  6. Laura

    Preschool administration has been harassing me. Recently they made an unfounded/false claim that I was a possible risk to children and reported me to NSW ECEC regulatory authority.

  7. Lauren Galea

    What if the court and everyone are so focused on thinking a mother is making it up but really she was telling the truth and than the perpetrator is able to continue the abuse cos they think she’s lying than believe false accusations about the mother when it was the father making it up so he didn’t get caught

  8. Breanne

    My abusive ex husband is falsely Accusing me of child abuse and neglect, but he has parental rights with custody as I only have her 2 days a week dye to my mental disorders and him lying in court. What can I do? Hes trying to take her away from me. My mental health is stable and I’m in treatment and also have my own house. He wants to take her away from me and I’m depressed and heart broken. I love my daughter and would never cause any harm to her but he’s being spiteful and making accusations. He has no proof I’ve done anything and in concerned that he has abused her and somebody noticed, therefore to save is arse he has accused me to get away with it maybe?

  9. jake

    My children removed, lost my job and a DVO placed on me from DCJ, my sister in-law making false reports to DCJ {docs}, talking to school, talking to my work colleges. me and my partner have lost our 4 kids to her sisters false reporting to keep our kids.

  10. Tracey a hurd

    Dcj have taken all 8 of my children in 8 months partner was removed 8 months ago in that time my.19 son passed away drowned at sea 3 days later body was recovered had 3 different case manager ls one was removed because she was to emotionally connected to us there was an avo in place prior I removed due to out trauma we all suffered but partner still does not reside with myself and our children this new case manager has made claims that’s I use excessive discipline don’t protect from harm poor living conditions and I don’t feed them in which I have all proof is faulty how could I not feed 8 children plus myself I have never had any convictions avos nothing against me to prove her story is there anything I can do to get my children back and I’m 7 months pregnant how do I protect her from there nasty clutches she has given me 3 months to grieve the loss of my first born son as if there is a time limit she is putrid

  11. Anne

    Good, people must be severely punished when accusations are false and used as a weapon against another, more so against the other parent to prevent their children from seeing their other parent or people meaningful to the child. There is a strong petition on this at Change.org.
    The damage is unspeakably painful and maddening to anyone involved, including, grandparents and the children.

  12. John Roberts

    Has anyone EVER gone to prison in NSW for any length of time for false accusations after ruining the other person’s life? Seriously, I would like to know. A case of the pendulum swinging too far the other way. And they wonder why the public is anxious to see the police bodycam footage of an emaciated 95-year-old woman being tasered. It’s called Community Standards. How else would the courts know the ever-changng standard of what the average person considers reasonable?

  13. Renee Viray

    I have been a victim of DCJ Child Protection Worker for allegations of a common assault that was represented to court and to proceed in their favour. These misleading allegations are serious as they’ve decided to assume care of my daughter from the hospital at NICU, they’ve written on the day of the removal that I spat CPS worker and was escorted by the security where it never happened, they also went through our phone whilst we were having a break, in the process of the meeting. They were making fun and laughing at us as they write down on their notes that I was de escalating.
    In the support of the hospital to advice the cps to share their needs but DCJ cps workers refused that advice and to point out that they were treated in an ill matter. There are a lot of corruption in here and the worst part is DCJ cps workers are targeting the ones who are innocent, where there are no best interest to the child, but to only protect their work.

  14. Sharee

    I would like to speak to someone who may help me with false allegations against me through my ex and DJC

  15. tim

    My ex wife has continually made vexatious accusations in attempts to prevent custody. This is due to her own ongoing court matters and dependency issues that will possibly result in some form of custodial or rehab sentence. After multiple attempts at false reports of harrasment my 14 year old daughter has suddenly claimed my mother and I both sexually touched her five years ago when she was nine. Completely untrue and a heartbreaking situation that has resulted in detectives issuing provisional avos against both of us. She has clearly been coerced and influenced to do this. it is an instant four year contact prevention order regardless of guilt if this matter is upheld. There is no proof whatsoever, it didnt happen and there has been no instances of abuse towards any of my children ever. It is clearly a ditch attempt to put a roadblock to custody whilst at the same time smearing both myself and my elderly mother. when i asked what can be done to stop this and can anyone be held accountable I was told by detectives the child cannot be held accountable in these matters and can continue to make further accusations. We have been provided no context, shown no proof or been provide definate dates or timelines for the alleged offence. Unsure what steps to take or even where to begin. When previously trying to see the children the ex wife threatened to kill my elderly mother and this matter is also before the courts.

  16. Shania

    I fled dv
    Had no were to go with my disability children
    Not to mention no family as they all gave me up as a child.
    In saying that they made 37 dhhs reports on me instead of helping me

    Some reports state i harm my kids
    Im a danger
    I do drugs
    I didnt want my kids
    Im a drinker
    Ect i dont do drugs nor drink
    I removed my kids from a bad situation to protect them .
    Ive done 18 drug screens this year to prove they dont beleave me .
    I said put me in a rehab center so i can show them im.clean they say no
    I provide proff of things that were lies about they act as thoe they never saw it

    Its been 10 mo ths now

    Still trying to figure this shit out

    A person can only do so much and hold back them tears for so long

    How can they gdt away woth this

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