Certified Copies of Fraudulent Documents

posted Dec 3, 2015, 10:47 PM by Michael Rees   [ updated Jan 3, 2016, 6:50 PM ]
At the 17 August meeting we discussed the issue of certifying copies of fraudulent documents. The specific case involved an Australian passport where the perforated passport number did not match the printed number. It was decided to send a question to the QJA Journal editor John Carpendale. This was duly done on 24 August:

A JP signing at the Southport Magistrates Courthouse certified a copy of an Australian Passport. More than 12 months later an email was received forwarded from the JP Branch from a Veda employee using their company's id document checking service on behalf of the Dept of Immigration. The passport was fraudulent with the perforated passport number failing to match the printed passport number.

Other than forwarding the fraudulent document the email from Veda and the JP Branch gave no indication of what action, if any, the JP should take. Now that we are aware of the printed passport number/perforated passport number crosscheck what action should a JP take if they find such a fraudulent passport being presented by a client?

This week I received the reply which has been received from the JP Branch:

In this particular case while it may have been possible for the certifying JP to detect the variance between the printed and perforated numbers on the passport, as we would all appreciate, circumstances do not always allow for such a particular scrutiny of a document. 

JPs are not trained in or responsible for detecting possible fraudulent documents. Specifically, regarding copies of documents, the JP is certifying that the copy is a true and complete copy of the original document (which they have sighted) not that the original document is valid or authentic. 

However, if during their scrutiny of the document they do happen to identify an anomaly in the document which, on reasonable grounds, may cast doubt on the validity or legitimacy of the document (as in the above case) then this would be grounds on which to decline to certify (or witness) the document. They might also refer the matter to JP Branch for discussion as to whether or not the matter should be reported to the relevant authority for investigation.

A suitably modified question and answer will appear in the Summer Edition of the QJA Journal.