It is a crime, contrary to the Forgery Act 1981, to commit the offence of forgery.
It is often wrongly thought that merely by writing something which is false or, for example, writing someone’s signature on a document, that you commit the offence of forgery.
This mistake is made sometimes by the prosecuting authority, including the police.
In order to commit an offence, a defendant must create a false instrument which lies about itself, not which contains a lie. However, the mere creation of the document does not cause a person to be guilty, unless the prosecution can prove that it was used with intent to cause someone to accept it as genuine and intended for someone to lose, or intended to gain, as a result. It is not forgery to lie, even if that lie is in a document.
We have substantial experience in acting for clients who have been wrongly accused of forgery, and it is important where someone is investigated for such an offence, that their representative understands what is involved in the act.
An example of how mistakes can be made in prosecuting forgery cases is made out in an important successful case in which we were involved.
A doctor being a general practitioner employed by NHS England was alleged to have forged a prescription. The doctor was investigated by the General Medical Council and they advised the police as to the practice and procedure in respect of the writing of prescriptions. Taken at face value, the procedure as set out by the General Medical Council for NHS prescriptions, was interpreted wrongly to mean that if a prescription was signed other than by the patient then it constituted the offence of forgery of a prescription.
They were wrong.
The prescription did not lie about itself. The fact that the signature was not that of the patient was an irrelevance to the commission of a crime. We were able to satisfy the court that the General Medical Council’s expert was wrong about NHS prescriptions and private prescriptions and as a result, the prosecution were compelled to drop the case.
The reason why the law of forgery is so precise is because it does not require the defendant to be dishonest before they can be convicted. So, rather than use the word dishonesty in the Forgery Act, the words prohibit the creation of a document intended to cause someone to lose.
It is further required that the document is created to lie about itself i.e. it is not genuine. So, for example, if a person claimed in a document that he was an NHS doctor employed by the General Medical Council, and he was not, then that document would not be a forgery. If however, it was a false certificate intended to be used to dupe someone into believing that it was genuine, then it would be a forgery.
It is important for persons investigated for the offences of forgery that they approach a specialist lawyer who understands not only the law and practice but also understands how the interpretation of the practice and procedure for organisations such as the British Medical Council (BMC) operate.
We are hugely experienced, capable and have an outstanding track record of success. If you are involved in a forgery case, please contact our Criminal Defence team as soon as possible.
- John Ellwood