Tampering with witnesses

38.60Deterring or hindering a person from giving evidence to either House or a committee of either House is a contempt which has often been punished in the past.1 Tampering with a witness may involve an attempt by persuasion or solicitations of any kind to induce a witness not to attend, or to withhold evidence or to give false evidence, as well as corruption or intimidation. In 1935, the House of Commons resolved that it agreed with the report of a select committee that, in the committee's opinion, it was a breach of privilege to give any advice to a witness which took the form of pressure or of interference with his freedom to form and express his own opinions honestly in the light of all the facts known to him.2


  1. 1. CJ (1640–42) 81; ibid (1699–1702) 400, 404; ibid (1708–11) 433, 479; ibid (1727–32) 480, 711; ibid (1809) 35 and Parl Deb (1809) 12, c 460; CJ (1835) 324, 421, 478, 508; ibid (1851–52) 147–48; see also Parl Deb (1857) 146, c 97.
  2. 2. Report of the Select Committee on Witnesses of Session 1934–35, HC 84, p vii and CJ (1934–35) 294. It is generally the case that civil servants give evidence, not on their own account, but on behalf of their Ministers.