Another fascinating twist in the Vizard saga. Yesterday, Victoria
Police interviewed him about an allegation that he committed perjury
when he gave evidence on oath at the committal hearing of his former
accountant Roy Hilliard. It is reported that a brief will now be
prepared for the State DPP.

When Vizard himself was prosecuted in a civil proceeding by
ASIC in the Federal Court last year, his lawyers made a statement of
facts to the court. This statement appeared to directly contradict his sworn
committal evidence. Significantly, Vizard did not give evidence in the Federal Court, no
doubt seeking to prevent (or minimise) this very problem of
perjury.

Perjury is a knowingly false statement under oath and carries
a maximum of 15 years jail. Courts treat it very seriously because it is the
coercive power that glues the legal system together. If Vizard was charged and
convicted he would face a jail sentence – but he is innocent until
proved guilty.

Vizard’s spokesman Mike Smith told The Age this morning that the advice from his legal team was
that he had no case to answer, because an agreed statement of facts
he signed to settle the Federal Court case against him was not
considered evidence. ”It’s a bit like a marriage settlement or a building dispute or
a car accident, where both sides compromise their position solely
for the purpose of getting it out of the way,” Mr Smith said.

But the law as I understand it says that a statement made by a
lawyer in open court in the presence of his client is a statement by an agent
and thus binds the client. Thus, if the lawyer’s statement contradicts the
sworn evidence, it would (in my view) be sufficient to establish
perjury.

Any lawyer would think long and hard before stating facts in
the Federal Court while knowing the client had previously given contradictory sworn
evidence. The lawyer would realise that this could expose his client to a
perjury charge. I would expect the lawyers (as makers of the Federal Court statement) to
give evidence unless Vizard claims legal professional privilege. Another
sleeper is that if the Federal Court statement itself is not correct then there could be a
contempt of the Federal Court. I am, of course, not suggesting the lawyers have
done anything wrong.

Will Vizard be charged by the State DPP? We will have to
wait and see. If he is charged, then he will have to face justice in the
criminal courts.

Peter Fray

A lot can happen in 3 months.

3 months is a long time in 2020. Join us to make sense of it all.

Get you first 12 weeks of Crikey for just $12. Cancel anytime.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

12 weeks for $12