Insights and inspiration
The End of the Elias Principle?
19 August 2013
Often in Family Court proceedings a party will make a statement that contradicts an earlier statement made elsewhere and argue that the previous statement was untrue. An example is where a party says that they separated from their former partner on 1 June 2013 when in fact they lodged documents with Centrelink confirming they had been single since 2011. It is often the case that the earlier statement was made with the intention of obtaining benefits to which the party was not entitled.
In earlier cases where a party wanted to contradict an earlier statement and argue that the previous statement was untrue, the Court was unlikely to permit them to do so. This was particularly so if the statement was made in order to gain an advantage. This was known as the "Elias Principle".
In Benedict & Peake  FCCA 332, a Judge went a different way. He permitted a party to rely on evidence that contradicted previous statements that party had made to Centrelink and the ATO. The Judge said that the party should not be prevented from relying on the earlier statement. His reasons included the fact that both parties were aware of the false statement and both gained an advantage from it.
Despite this recent decision, it is important to bear in mind that serious consequences may flow if the Court becomes aware that a party has made fraudulent or illegal statements to obtain a benefit. The Court has wide powers to refer parties to authorities for prosecution including the ATO if tax fraud has occurred. Further the previous false statement may affect a party's credit. This means the Court may not believe anything the person says if objected to by the other party.
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