Marcus Einfeld, according to his peers, copped a fair sentence from Justice Bruce James last Friday when he was sentenced in the New South Wales Supreme Court to three years’ imprisonment, with a minimum of two to be served before he is eligible for parole, for perjury and perverting the course of justice.

But did he? Or is this just the lawyers club seeking yet again to distance themselves as far as possible from one of their own who has fallen foul of the law?

The New South Wales Bar Association’s Robert Goot told the ABC’s PM program last Friday, “I believe that given the seriousness of the offence, the sentence is not surprising.” His colleague at the New South Wales Society, Jo Catanzariti, went even further and welcomed the sentence because it shows “the legal profession did not protect its own”.

The courts hate perjury and perverting the course of justice — such offences go directly to the heart of a system that is, theoretically and hopefully in practice, built on the concept of the truth and nothing but the truth. As recently as 2004, the New South Wales Court of Appeal said of offences of the type committed by Einfeld, “the principle is well established in our administration of the system of justice that a false statement on oath or affirmation given before a court is regarded a serious offence, which ordinarily should result in a significant penalty of full-time imprisonment.”

But for how long do people generally go to jail for perjury and perverting the course of justice in New South Wales? Here are some recent examples.

In 2004, an individual who gave false evidence in a criminal trial was given by the State’s Court of Criminal Appeal, a jail term of two years, with 12 months to be served before the individual was eligible for parole.

Two police officers who gave false evidence to the Royal Commission into the New South Wales Police Force were, in 2002, given sentences of 20 months’ imprisonment with a minimum of six months to be served as a minimum, and 22 months imprisonment with 14 months to be served as a minimum respectively. In a related case, another police officer who gave false evidence at a criminal trial received a two year jail term, with a minimum period of nine months.

In 2002, the New South Wales Court of Criminal Appeal reduced a sentence for perjury at a criminal trial by a 21-year-old man to a term of three years’ imprisonment, with a minimum term of 18 months.

Each case is different, depends on its own facts and the personal circumstances of the accused person, but recent experience in New South Wales suggests that Einfeld’s sentence was at the upper end of the range.

The legal profession, despite what the community might believe, never spares its own when they have been found guilty of serious criminal offences and is paranoid about being seen to do so. Mr Goot and Mr Catanzariti’s responses are testament to this. This is why they could do nothing else but support the sentence handed down in Einfeld’s case.