Criminal law & process 3

Victoria Australia

Don Just


Site law search & contents

in this section


Criminal damage to property



Misconduct in public office


Perverting the course of justice and attempting

Public health and wellbeing, COVID-19 restrictions

Public nuisance



Theft, obtaining by deception, robbery, burglary, handling stolen goods etc


Urging violence, sedition, criminal defamation, vilification



version 25 August 2021

In Victoria, Crimes Act s.321F abolishes the common law crime of conspiracy but preserves the separate common law crimes of conspiracy to cheat and defraud and conspiracy to defraud. A statutory crime of conspiracy is defined by s.321:
 (1) Subject to this Act, if a person agrees with any other person or persons that a course of conduct shall be pursued which will involve the commission of an offence by one or more of the parties to the agreement, he is guilty of the indictable offence of conspiracy to commit that offence.
(2) For a person to be guilty under sub-section (1) of conspiracy to commit a particular offence both he and at least one other party to the agreement--
(a) must intend that the offence the subject of the agreement be committed; and
(b) must intend or believe that any fact or circumstance the existence of which is an element of the offence will exist at the time when the conduct constituting the offence is to take place.

It is sufficient if it is agreed that one or more of the parties are to be involved in the commission of that offence; there is no requirement that each party must intend to play some active part in the commission of the agreed offence: Rolls v R [2011] VSCA 401.

Agreements to commit an offence outside Victoria are included: s.321A; Re Hamilton-Byrne [1995] VicRp 8, [1995] 1 VR 129. The acquittal of an alleged co-conspirator is inconsequential unless inconsistent: s.321B; R v Darby [1982] HCA 32, (1982) 148 CLR 668.

If the prosecution believes it has effective count for a substantive offence then it should proceed with those counts. If there is some real basis for doubting that the offence had been committed there may perhaps be justification in alleging a conspiracy. Generally speaking, it is undesirable that conspiracy should be charged when a substantive offence has been committed and there is a sufficient and effective count that this offence has been committed. Hoar v R [1981] HCA 67, (1981) 148 CLR 32.

As to common law conspiracy to defraud under Victorian law, see R v Walsh [2002] VSCA 98, (2002) 131 A Crim R 299; R v Walsh and Harney [1984] VicRp 39, [1984] VR 474. As to extra-territoriality of common law conspiracy to defraud, see Lipohar v R [1999] HCA 65, (1999) 200 CLR 48. The requirement of nexus should be liberally applied; a real connection with the jurisdiction will suffice. This seems to displace a narrower view of extra-territoriality taken in Re Hamilton-Byrne above.

For presentment of conspiracy, conspiracy to cheat and defraud or conspiracy to defraud, the approval of the Director of Public Prosecutions is required: s.321(4), s.321F(4).

Another statutory crime is Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act s.79, conspiring to traffick, cultivate or possess. The meaning and proof of this conspiracy comes from the common law. It is an alternative to proceeding by the Crimes Act: R v Pepe [2000] VSCA 208, (2000) 2 VR 412.

A leading case for common law conspiracy is Gerakiteys v R [1984] HCA 8, (1984) 153 CLR 317. The idea is that a conspiracy is complete at a particular instant. Others may later join it. In Victoria, practice often is to conceive of conspiracy as continuing from its commencing instant to its cessation i.e. between specified dates though for sentencing purposes, the culpability of the later joiner on typical facts it seems should be largely or entirely confined to his or her actual participation. Others however who join to only part of the agreement join a fresh conspiracy.

Although "overt acts" are commonly particularised they are not themselves component elements of the crime; they merely evidence it: R v Caldwell [2009] VSCA 41, (2009) 22 VR 93; R v Theophanous [2003] VSCA 78, (2003) 141 A Crim R 216.

The words and acts of an alleged conspirator in furtherance of the conspiracy in absence of another conspirator often will be objectionable hearsay as against that other conspirator. The co-conspirator's rule of evidence is that, once the foundation that there was a conspiracy is on reasonable evidence laid to the satisfaction of the trial judge, such words and acts of each alleged conspirator in furtherance of the conspiracy as otherwise would be inadmissible hearsay, become admissible: Ahern v R [1988] HCA 39, (1988) 165 CLR 87; Tripodi v R [1961] HCA 22, (1961) 104 CLR 1; Beqiri v R [2017] VSCA 112; Tsang v DPP (Cth) [2011] VSCA 336, (2011) 35 VR 240; R v Perrier [2008] VSCA 97; R v Kaladjic [2005] VSCA 160; R v White [2003] VSCA 174. The finding of foundation is on there being reasonable evidence: Lindsey (a pseudonym) v R [2021] VSCA 230;Tsang v DPP (Cth) [2011] VSCA 336, (2011) 35 VR 240. It follows from a proper understanding of the hearsay objection that the finding of foundation may have regard to evidence of the words of those said to be participants providing regard falls short of depending upon treating the words as evidence of the truth of that which was asserted: Ahern; Benbrika v R [2010] VSCA 281, (2009) 222 FLR 433. Because the rule applies only to statements in furtherance of the agreement, it is usually inapplicable to a mere narrative of some past event: Tripodi at 7; R v Su [1997] 1 VR 1 at 40ff. The rule is equally applicable where the conspiracy has been carried out and the common purpose substantive offence is charged, as for instance in cases of Tripodi and Lindsey.

The words and acts of an alleged conspirator in furtherance of the conspiracy in absence of another conspirator will not always be hearsay. Hearsay applies against leading such evidence for the purpose of proving its truth. Thus without resort to the co-conspirator's rule of evidence, it is permissible to use the acts and declarations of each, even in the absence of the other, not as proof of the truth of any assertion or implied assertion of the participation of the other, but for example as facts from which the combination might be inferred, or they may be circumstantial evidence which, along with other evidence, is relevant: R & the A-G of the Cth v Associated Northern Collieries [1911] HCA 73, (1911) 14 CLR 387; see also Ahern; Bacash; Tsang v DPP (Cth) [2011] VSCA 336, (2011) 35 VR 240; R v Mbonu [2003] VSCA 52, (2003) 7 VR 273.

For federal crimes, Criminal Code s.11.5; R v Ong [2007] VSCA 206, (2007) 176 A Crim R 366.


version 20 May 2019

Crimes Act sections 197-247L define many different crimes against property including generally and to computers, aircraft, buildings, mines, railways, signals, buoys etc.

The definition of property: s.196.

The first group of crimes defined concern intentionally and without lawful excuse destroying or damaging property: s.197. Of these, the first three are by s.197(1) so destroying or damaging property, by s.197(2) so destroying or damaging property endangering life and by s.197(3) so dishonestly destroying or damaging property with a view to gain. By effect of s.197(6), the fourth is arson being by fire so destroying or damaging property, or by fire so destroying or damaging property endangering life, or by fire so dishonestly destroying or damaging property with a view to gain. The section substantially remains as enacted in 1978 with a view to simplifying various previous laws: see DPP Reference No 1 of 1988 [1989] VicRp 75, [1989] VR 857.

The meaning of intentionally is given by s.197(4). It assimilates recklessness with intentionality, as usually kept distinct for other crimes, and varies them a little. The provision has been interpreted to require the intention to be to damage or destroy the specific property alleged: Eade v R [2012] VSCA 142, (2012) 35 VR 526.

Whether for arson, the intention to destroy or damage has to be by fire is unsettled. A literal reading of the provision appears not to require it.

Lack of lawful excuse is partly dealt with by: s.201.

To damage a thing means to injure or harm the thing in some way that, commonly, lessens the value of the thing; a thing is not damaged if the physical integrity of the thing is not altered in any respect: Grajewski v DPP (NSW) [2019] HCA 8 (on equivalent NSW provision).

The s.197(3) crime of dishonestly destroying or damaging property with a view to gain includes even against one's own property and even if the gain is market value: DPP Reference No 1 of 1988 [1989] VicRp 75, [1989] VR 857.

Arson causing death: Crimes Act s.197A, see notes2. Intentionally or recklessly causing a bushfire: Crimes Act s.201A.

If unauthorised by the owner, paintings on property, including kinds sometimes described as street art, tagging and graffiti, are examples amongst such crimes: DPP v Shoan [2007] VSCA 220, (2007) 176 A Crim R 457. It is no different if the painting is words expressing opinion: Magee v Delaney [2012] VSC 407. Graffiti Protection Act defines some summary offences including possessing a graffiti implement with intent to mark graffiti.


version 17 April 2020

Statutory indictable crimes under the Victorian Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act include drugs of dependence ss.71-71C trafficking offences, ss.72-72B cultivation offences, s.73 possession, s.75 use and s.79 conspiring.

There is a long list of "drugs of dependence": see s.4 and Schedule 11 which includes in Part 2 cannabis L (commonly known as marihuana or marijuana) and in Part 3 cocaine, diacetylmorphine (heroin), methylamphetamine (different forms including one commonly known as ice, another as speed), MDMA (commonly known as ecstasy) and tetrahydrocannabinol (or THC, the hallucogenic component of cannabis typically relied upon to allege hashish).

There are some exemptions from criminal liability for clients of a licensed medically supervised injecting centre: Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act ss.55A-55R especially s.55K.

Elaborate provisions dealing with permitted medicinal cannabis are provided by Commonwealth law: Narcotics Act.

Other drug crimes are defined by Commonwealth law Customs Act, particularly s.233. See also Criminal Code.

Most of the crimes are defined to require intent or knowledge of the nature of the substance though this usually means of the legal class of the drug in general terms rather than of which particular drug it is: Saad v R [1987] HCA 14, (1987) 61 ALJR 243; DPP Reference No 1 of 2004 [2005] VSCA 172, (2005) 12 VR 299.

For Victoria, the commercial quantities and large commercial quantities are defined by weight of a particular drug or combination of drugs; for cannabis also by number of plants: schedule 11 Parts 2 and 3. "Cannabis" means a plant or any part of a plant of the genus Cannabis L, whether fresh or dried: Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act s.71 (2); R v Kardogeros [1991] VicRp 19, [1991] 1 VR 269. For the purpose of counting plants to apply the commercial quantity and large commercial quantity definitions, "plant" has its ordinary sense rather than any technical scientific or botanical sense so that expert scientific evidence on the point is inadmissible; "plant" includes a cutting which has struck or established roots, it also includes a dead plant: R v Francis-Wright [2005] VSCA 79, (2005) 11 VR 354.

For Victoria commercial quantity and large commercial quantity crimes, it is for prosecution to show that the accused had knowledge of the nature of the substance and of the quantity of the substance at the time of the commission of the offence: R v Luhan [2009] VSCA 30; R v Reed [2008] VSCA 20; R v Callaghan [2007] VSCA 135; R v Garlick [2006] VSCA 127; R v Bui [2005] VSCA 300; DPP Reference No 1 of 2004 above. With cultivating cannabis, if a jury is satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the accused knew there was a real and significant chance that he or she was cultivating the commercial (or large commercial) quantity, it is open to the jury to infer the requisite intention: R v McKittrick [2008] VSCA 69; R v Page [2008] VSCA 54.

As to trafficking, Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substance Act section 70 provides
"traffick" in relation to a drug of dependence includes--
(a) prepare a drug of dependence for trafficking;
(b) manufacture a drug of dependence; or
(c) sell, exchange, agree to sell, offer for sale or have in possession for sale, a drug of dependence.

This is an inclusive meaning of trafficking. As to any wider meaning, cases which (though considering earlier legislation) generally regarded as applicable are R v Holman [1982] VicRp 46, [1982] VR 471 (requires at least activity in a commercial setting, that is to say a setting in which it can be fairly inferred that someone involved is making a profit, participation in the progress of goods from source to consumer and movement of the goods between source and consumer, consumer meaning another person with whom in contact for the purpose of transferring ownership or possession or for taking any step directed to those ends); also Youssef (a pseudonym) v R [2019] VSCA 240; R v Elem [1982] VicRp 27, [1982] VR 295; Falconer v Pedersen [1974] VicRp 24, [1974] VR 185. The preparation form of trafficking is confined to preparation of drug for trafficking in that drug: Vyater v The Queen [2020] VSCA 32. Possession for sale is considered in R v Bandiera [1999] VSCA 187, [1999] 3 VR 10 and R v Kardogeros [1991] VicRp 19, [1991] VR 269. The trafficking may be of a continuing kind typically known as a "Giretti" count or charge: R v Giretti [1986] VicSC 484, (1986) 24 A Crim R 112; Dang v R [2014] VSCA 49; R v Komljenovic [2006] VSCA 136. Where two accused are joined in a Giretti charge, it is not necessary for the prosecution to establish that they were acting in complicity: nor does the prosecution have to prove that the parties ever met or communicated with each other, or were aware of the identity of the other party: it is sufficient to prove that the parties were both engaged in the alleged trafficking business: Nguyen v R [2015] VSCA 76; R v Lao [2002] VSCA 157, (2002) 5 VR 129. Continuing offences of commercial quantity and large commercial quantity type may rely on the aggregate amount to establish the required quantity but the element of intent as to commercial quantity or large commercial quantity must exist from the commencement of the action: Mustica v R [2011] VSCA 79; R v McCulloch [2009] VSCA 34, (2009) 21 VR 340.

Generally on the concept of possession, see R v Tran [2007] VSCA 164.

If on a s.71 trafficking charge, the prosecution is relying on the possession for sale form of trafficking, it is only the saleable weight or number of plants which counts as to the act and intent of the accused: R v Nguyen [2006] VSCA 158; R v Francis-Wright [2005] VSCA 79, (2005) 11 VR 354; R v Coviello [1995] VICSC 173, (1995) 81 A Crim R 293.

Proof is aided by "deeming provisions" based on possession, s.70 "traffickable quantity" and s.73(2). However proof is not aided by s.5 occupation of premises: Momcilovic v R [2011] HCA 34, (2011) 245 CLR 1.

Possession of information and accoutrements of trade as circumstantial proof: see site Notes 1. With drugs of possession of substance, material, documents or equipment for trafficking is also a crime: Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act s.71A.

For supply to a child: s.71B.

Proof of the nature of substances may be by analyst's or botanist's certificate under Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act s.120. It may also be by evidence of admission if the admitter is shown to have sufficient general knowledge of the substance: Anglim and Cooke v Thomas [1974] VicRp 45, [1974] VR 363. These are not exhaustive of the methods for this proof.

For cultivate: ss.70; 71C; Grozdanov v R [2012] VSCA 94.


version 4 September 2020

A statutory indictable offence: Crimes Act sections 321G-321L; R v Massie [1998] VSCA 82, [1999] 1 VR 542; R v Zhong [2003] VSCA 56; (2003) 139 A Crim R 220; and mainly on sentence Smith v R [2014] VSCA 268; R v Natale [2011] VSCA 28. Reported cases mainly concern incited offences defined or recognised by Crimes Act as indictable crimes, especially murder.

The definition by s.321G commences: "Subject to this Act, where a person in Victoria or elsewhere incites any other person to pursue a course of conduct which will involve the commission of an offence". By s.321I, though the penalty provision, there is indication that "an offence" refers to offences against a law or laws in force in Victoria and includes incitement of offences that may be heard and determined only in the Magistrates' Court. It thus seems that whatever the point is of the words "Subject to this Act" in s.321G, it is not to confine "an offence" to those defined or recognised by Crimes Act.

By Crimes Act s.2A "incite" includes command, request, propose, advise, encourage or authorize.

For proof of guilt one of the necessary elements is that the inciting is acted on in accordance with the inciter's intention: s.321G(1).


version 17 August 2019

A crime at common law, recognised in Victoria by Crimes Act s.320. For long little charged in Australia, it is now revived with demonstrated reach including into the conduct of elected politicians.

The elements of the offence as understood in Victoria are: (1) a public official; (2) in the course of or connected to his public office; (3) wilfully misconduct himself; by act or omission, for example, by wilfully neglecting or failing to perform his duty; (4) without reasonable excuse or justification; and (5) where such misconduct is serious and meriting criminal punishment having regard to the responsibilities of the office and the officeholder, the importance of the public objects which they serve and the nature and extent of the departure from those objects: R v Quach [2010] VSCA 106, (2011) 35 VR 71 (police officer obtaining sexual favour from vulnerable person met shortly prior in police work); cf Gopinath v R [2019] VSCA 172.

Some other Victoria examples are R v Jones pdf [1946] VicLawRp 46, [1946] VLR 300 (government supplies officer, alleged secret profits and corrupt disposals); DPP v Marks [2005] VSCA 277 and R v Bunning [2007] VSCA 205 (police officers accessing police computers to give information to drug dealers); DPP v Armstrong [2007] VSCA 34 (police officer extorting money from cannabis grower for non-prosecution); Soylemez v R [2014] VSCA 23 (prison officer smuggling drugs in).

From NSW, where the common law offence also exists with the elements understood as in Victoria, see Obeid v R [2017] NSWCCA 221 (government minister making representations to a public servant with the intention of securing an outcome which would result in pecuniary benefits to him or his family; convicted and imprisoned) and R v Macdonald [2017] NSWSC 337 (government minister granting mining exploration licences improperly motivated to benefit private parties; convicted and imprisoned).

With the wilful misconduct element, the Obeid case highlights that the duty of elected politicians is to act according to what they believe to be in the public interest and the interests of the electorate.


version 20 October 2020

Crimes Act s.314.
Need for corroboration: R v Holmes [2008] VSCA 128; R v Townley [1986] VicSC 57, (1985) 24 A Crim R 76; Evidence Act s.164. However for an alleged in-court perjury, evidence of the testimony from a person present is capable of being proof: R v Rowley (1825) Ry & Mood 299, 171 ER 1027; R v Munton (1829) 3 Car & P 498, 172 ER 519.
Suborning perjury: R v Ritchie [2005] VSCA 166.


version 21 October 2020

Perverting the course of justice and attempting to pervert the course of justice are common law crimes in Victoria recognised by Crimes Act s.320.

Perverting the course of justice is engaging in conduct that perverts the course of justice with the intention of perverting the course of justice. The conduct must have be engaged in after the jurisdiction of a court or competent judicial body has been invoked.

"The course of justice is perverted (or obstructed) by impairing (or preventing the exercise of) the capacity of a court or competent judicial authority to do justice. The ways in which a court or competent judicial authority may be impaired in (or prevented from exercising) its capacity to do justice are various. Those ways comprehend, in our opinion, erosion of the integrity of the court or competent judicial authority, hindering of access to it, deflecting applications that would be made to it, denying it knowledge of the relevant law or of the true circumstances of the case, and impeding the free exercise of its jurisdiction and powers including the powers of executing its decisions." Rogerson v R [1992] HCA 25, (1992) 174 CLR 268 per Brennan and Toohey JJ.

Attempting to pervert the course of justice is a substantive crime, not an example of the attempted crimes of Crimes Act ss.321M-321S.

Attempting to pervert the course of justice is engaging in conduct that has the tendency to pervert the course of justice with the intention of perverting the course of justice: Meissner v R [1995] HCA 41, (1995) 184 CLR 132; R v Aydin [2005] VSCA 85. It is not necessary that there be a course of justice already in existence: R v Beckett [2015] HCA 38, (2015) 256 CLR 305; R v Murphy [1985] HCA 50, (1985) 158 CLR 596; R v Allan [1995] VicRp 66, [1995] 2 VR 468.

A somewhat related statutory offence concerns destruction or concealment of evidence: Crimes Act s.254. It concerns various materials likely to be, required in evidence in a legal proceeding, which includes any civil criminal or mixed proceeding and any inquiry in which evidence is or may be given before any court or person acting judicially including a Royal Commission or Board of Inquiry. It includes expressly, tacitly or impliedly authorising or permitting another person to destroy or conceal the evidence.


version 24 November 2021

Public Health and Wellbeing Act of Victoria has a summary offence which since 2020 has become prominent as a criminal sanction backing for often extreme Directions claimed required against virus COVID-19 (coronavirus).

At 23 November 2021, since commencement of COVID-19 early in 2020 there have been in Victoria 113,755 confirmed cases of whom 103,037 so far have recovered; there have been 478 deaths in 2021 and 820 deaths in 2020 with COVID-19 one of the causes or the only cause: updating at

all Australia, there have been few COVID-19 deaths under age 70; the largest numbers by far have been age 80-89 and over 90, median age of deaths is 86 years: updating at especially at-a-glance-infographic-collection. Over 70 per cent of people who have died from COVID-19 in Australia had pre-existing chronic conditions certified on the death certificate:

Population of Victoria is 6.359 million. In Victoria in 2020, 41,143 people died of whatever cause. This was slightly fewer than 2019, which was before there was COVID-19 in Victoria, when 41,387 people died.

By Public Health and Wellbeing Act s.203, the offence is that a person must not refuse or fail to comply with a direction given to the person, or a requirement made of the person, in the exercise of a power under an authorisation given under section 199.

Amongst the matters that guilt depends upon is breach of a direction or requirement of the said kind applicable at the date and place concerned and that there is not any exception or defence.

There has in 2020 and 2021 been a vast, frequently changing collection of sets of Directions.

There is maximum fine of 120 penalty units which is nearly $20,000. There is option to accept much lower on the spot fine infringement procedure though the adequacy of the system to check for true breach or deal with contested guilt for this offence is unlikely.

Such Directions, if they are to be properly made, need to honour the various principles of the Public Health and Wellbeing Act.

A principle that applies to the management and control of infectious diseases is that the spread of an infectious disease should be prevented or minimised with the minimum restriction on the rights of any person: s.111.

There are other principles within s.111.

Another principle is evidence based decision-making: s.5. This is that decisions as to - (a) the most effective use of resources to promote and protect public health and wellbeing; and (b) the most effective and efficient public health and wellbeing interventions - should be based on evidence available in the circumstances that is relevant and reliable.

Another principle is the precautionary: s.6. This is that if a public health risk poses a serious threat, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing measures to prevent or control the public health risk.

Another principle is primacy of prevention: s.7. This is that (1) The prevention of disease, illness, injury, disability or premature death is preferable to remedial measures. (2) For that purpose, capacity building and other health-promotion activities are central to reducing differences in health status and promoting the health and wellbeing of the people of Victoria.

Another principle is accountability: s.8. This is that (1) persons who are engaged in the administration of the Act should as far as is practicable ensure that decisions are transparent, systematic and appropriate. (2) Members of the public should therefore be given - (a) access to reliable information in appropriate forms to facilitate a good understanding of public health issues; and (b) opportunities to participate in policy and program development.

Another principle is proportionality: s.9. This is that decisions made and actions taken in the administration of the Act (a) should be proportionate to the public health risk sought to be prevented, minimised or controlled; and (b) should not be made or taken in an arbitrary manner.

Another principle is collaboration: s.10. This is that public health and wellbeing, in Victoria and at a national and international level, can be enhanced through collaboration between all levels of Government and industry, business, communities and individuals.

COVID-19 virus restrictions in Victoria 2020-2021

The COVID-19 virus restrictions and powers in Victoria commencing 2020 under State laws are these.

One source follows from declaration of emergency by Minister of Health 16 March 2020 under Public Health and Wellbeing Act. Parts 8-11 create powers and summary offences for management and control of infectious diseases, micro‑organisms and medical conditions in Victoria. Emergency powers in Victoria: s.200.

The second source, no longer in force, followed from state of disaster 2 August 2020 under Emergency Management Act 1986.

Pronouncements of Commonwealth source in the field covered by these Victorian Acts, such as prime ministerial, by Commonwealth ministers or health officials, have no legal force.

These are not "national cabinet" law; the body has no law making power.

The provision for a Declaration by (Victorian) Minister of a state of emergency arising out of any circumstances causing a serious risk to public health is Public Health and Wellbeing Act s.198 with s.3(1) and s.3(4), defining serious risk to public health.

By choosing to implement and maintain a state of emergency, the Victorian Government including the Premier has handed over the law making power for the purpose to Victorian Chief Health Officer or that officer's authorised officer.

By s.200(1), the law making power for the purpose handed over allows Directions far reaching made with at most slight weight for other considerations such as of collateral harming lives or of broader public policy.

There are though for a public health officer making the Directions, if to act lawfully, the principles including that in the management and control of infectious diseases the spread of an infectious disease should be prevented or minimised with the minimum restriction on the rights of any person: s.111. And the proportionality principle: s.9. And there is Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act, further below. Also, it would be unlawful for a public health officer in making the Directions to act under dictation.

The Premier of Victoria, excepting absence on leave March-July 2021, has by public utterance strongly supported the Directions to all their extremities in a manner that has created an impression they are from his personal decisions. They cannot lawfully be so. The Premier does not have the legal power to make or dictate the Directions. The Premier is bound by legislation and by the legal principle that an officer given by law a power cannot be directed how to exercise it, referred to concerning the Premier and a public health officer in case Loielo v Giles [2020] VSC 722.

Since late September 2020 the law has mostly been made by the Victorian Chief Health Officer (Brett Sutton) or the Acting officer. Previously all had been made by lesser public health officers.

The law is comprised of numerous sets of Directions of which one set, copied to this site, is linked below. For all current, see Or, though probably incomplete for past versions, AUSTLII here.

The law has been very frequently changed, for example the Stay at Home Directions (Restricted Areas) which for several months in 2020 and in 2021 applied to all of Melbourne had 28 different versions, when not so, the Stay Safe Directions often and currently again in force have the number showing below, also there have been numerous other intervening sets. The Directions are pdf or word, precise save namings inconsistent, and awkward to relate to dates and places of application.

The website information and public utterances purportedly stating the requirements are not of themselves the law and should be taken with caution.

The public health officers who have been making the Directions claim their power to do so comes from Declaration of Emergency, and Public Health and Wellbeing Act s.200(1)(b) and (d).

The s.200(1)(b) power is to restrict the movement of any person or group of persons within the emergency area. The s.200(1)(d) power is for whatever as authorised officer is considered reasonably necessary to protect public health.

**Stay Safe Directions (Victoria) (No 29)**

The various Directions have had many extreme effects probably the greatest in the history of Victoria.

Many Directions raise Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act issues. Unless within s.7 reasonable limits, they would conflict with the rights by s.12 freedom of movement, by s.16(1) peaceful assembly, by s.16(2) freedom of association, and by s.21 liberty and security of person. An Act or a subordinate instrument or a provision of an Act or of a subordinate instrument in breach of rights is not invalid but, unless subject of override provision, open to Supreme Court declaration: s.36. See also

The Ombudsman of Victoria has found aspect of a lockdown in 2020 of a particular public housing tower violated Victorian Human Rights laws: public-housing-tower-lockdown.

Masks. The right to go without face covering, e.g. masks, in Victoria human rights charter terms seems an example of liberty of person. And it is inconceivable that it would not be a right within the meaning of Public Health and Wellbeing Act s.111. Direction makers in often most extreme directions have supposed that it is within their power to give slight or no weight to such a right. For example, face mask requirements for more than 4 months in 2020 in Melbourne region, part February 2021, 3 weeks from late May 2021 and more than 3 months from mid July 2021 were imposed by Directions of such vicious ferocity that unmasked away from home even to walk non-vigorously when solitary and isolated in wide outdoors was a s.203 offence.

Lockdowns. For nearly 4 months in 2020 in Melbourne region and in part elsewhere in Victoria, there were public health officer Directions imposing extreme stay at home requirements, also for part February 2021, a period from late May 2021, for a time from mid July 2021 and for about 3 months from early August 2021, extremely limited reasons to depart home permitted.

Curfews in 2020 and 2021 in addition to lockdowns. Was in place for many weeks in 2021. For about 6 of weeks in 2020, the curfew was in place by Direction of public health officer Giles as delegate of chief public health officer (Brett Sutton). Initially it was 8pm-5am, later 9pm-5am. There was evidence received in Loielo v Giles [2020] VSC 722 that the Premier of Victoria Daniel Andrews had said this of the 2020 curfew.
"It’s not a matter for Brett Sutton, this is not it’s not health advice, this is about achieving the health outcome, his advice is do whatever you can to limit movement, Police then say 'We need rules we can enforce, it needs to be as simple as possible, we can’t stop every car, but if everyone is out who shouldn't be, um knows there is a chance they will get caught, and they got no lawful reason to be outside, that's what a curfew is about, then all of a sudden you will limit movement, so it’s consistent with the health advice, and these are decisions ultimately made by me, so the answer to the question is, if anyone has got a problem with that, anyone who doesn't that that has limited movement and driven down cases well their argument is with me, because, I've made that decision because I think it's a challenging one to make but its effective and it works and what it means is ...if you wanted to go exercising at midnight you can’t, if you wanted to go shopping at midnight you can’t, if you are a worker and you are permitted you can, if you need urgent care, you can get that care, beyond that what it means is no one is sneaking out going to their mates' place, no one is going doing things that they are by law not allowed to do, so it hasn't changed the rules, the rules that is the reasons you can leave they are all the same, it just makes the job of Police much much easier."
Concerning the 2020 curfew, in Loielo v Giles on the evidence no rule or principle was found breached as to invalidate but there was criticism.
"The Curfew was a major restriction of human rights and liberties of the free people of Victoria. No instance of a curfew being imposed in Victoria by the Executive exists in living memory. Curfews are normally imposed to control civil disturbances and widespread outbreaks of lawlessness...There was evidence of uncertainty of who had decided to introduce the Curfew in the first instance in August and on what basis it had been decided to introduce it. This uncertainty was despite the empowering legislation requiring that regard be had in its administration to the principle of accountability and that persons engaged in the administration of the legislation should as far as was practicable ensure that decisions are transparent, systematic and appropriate."

Query what effect on validity (or other legal consequences) might follow if Directions, or the manner in which they have been decided upon, breach Public Health and Wellbeing Act principle that for the management and control of infectious diseases, the spread of an infectious disease should be prevented or minimised with the minimum restriction on the rights of any person: s.111. Or the proportionality principle: s.9.

Query what effect on validity (or other legal consequences) might follow if Directions, or the manner in which they have been decided upon, breach any other principle or rule whether of Public Health and Wellbeing Act or from elsewhere in law.

A Direction would be invalid if it burdened the implied freedom of political communication provided by Australian Constitution when it was illegitimate and not reasonably appropriate: Clubb v Edwards [2019] HCA 11 (held another section of Public Health and Wellbeing Act not invalid on this basis); Cotterill v Romanes [2021] VSC 498 (held two COVID 19 directions under Public Health and Wellbeing Act in force for periods in 2020 not invalid on this basis).

The Australian Constitution does not provide for an implied freedom to move wherever one wishes for whatever reason; so held by High Court upon a challenge relying solely on this claim to certain of the 2020 Directions under Public Health and Wellbeing Act s 200(1)(b) and (d): Gerner v Victoria [2020] HCA 48.


version 14 August 2020

Common law crime recognised by Crimes Act s.320; R v Dixon-Jenkins [1985] VicSC 45, (1985) 14 A Crim R 372 (simulated explosive devices placed in city stores and a restaurant for political motive, as now a statutory terrorism crime, see below).

Public nuisance requires that the accused commit an unlawful act or omit to discharge a legal duty; and thereby endanger the life, health, property, morals, or comfort of the public, or obstruct the public in the exercise of legal rights. The public means a considerable number of persons or section of the public. In addition it seems necessary that the accused know or ought to know (because the means of knowledge are available) that the consequence would be of the defined kind: persuasive English authority R v Rimmington and Goldstein [2005] UKHL 63.

Rimmington's case mentions in passing a related common law crime of outraging public decency. See further England R v Hamilton [2007] EWCA Crim 2062. It requires an act of such lewd, obscene or disgusting character that it outrages public decency. A disgusting act is one which fills the onlooker with loathing or extreme distaste or causes annoyance. It must be of such a character that it outrages minimum standards of public decency as judged by the jury in contemporary society. There seems no specific indication that this common law crime exists in Victoria. Until a higher court ruling, it is uncertain whether it exists in Victoria.


version 11 June 2017

Criminal Code (Cth) s. 270.3; Wei Tang v R [2008] HCA 39, (2008) 237 CLR 1; Ho v R [2011] VSCA 344. Includes crimes of possessing a slave and of exercising over a slave any of the other powers attaching to the right of ownership.


version 15 October 2020

Many of the forms of conduct commonly described as terrorism would be, if occurring in Victoria, instances of the general crimes of Victoria law, such as murder or one of the crimes of criminal damage. In some circumstances they could be breach of the general crimes of Commonwealth law. These general crimes are supplemented by associated crimes involving attempt, conspiracy and incitement.

The Victoria Terrorism (Community Protection) Act mainly concerns police powers and preventative detention. It creates some crimes in support of these matters: s.13ZN. Also, it creates a crime of providing documents or information facilitating terrorist acts: s.4B.

In addition, Commonwealth law, constitutionally based in part on a 2004 referral by the States (coag/agreement), defines numerous crimes with terrorism as an element: see Criminal Code in Schedule. The definition of terrorist act is very complex, even employing a positive sub section elsewhere negated, see Schedule ss.100.1, 101.2 and 101.3. In general, a terrorist act means action done or threat made with the intention of advancing a political, religious or ideological cause with the intention of (i) coercing, or influencing by intimidation, the government of the Commonwealth or a State, Territory or foreign country, or of part of a State, Territory or foreign country; or (ii) intimidating the public or a section of the public. Further, the action done or threat made must cause one of various defined harms or dangers. There are exceptions for advocacy, protest, dissent or industrial action not intended to cause various defined harms.

Commonwealth crimes of terrorism include certain conduct preparatory to carrying out actual harm such as ordinarily not proscribed by general criminal laws, especially when by an individual alone. One such crime is advocating terrorism: s.80.2C. Another is possession of a thing connected with assistance in a terrorist act: s 101.4(1); DPP (Cth) v Karabegovic [2013] VSCA 380. There are crimes defined concerning membership etc of a terrorist organisation: s 102; Benbrika v R [2010] VSCA 281, (2009) 222 FLR 433. There is a crime of conspiring to do acts in preparation for or planning of terrorist act: s.101.6; DPP (Cth) v Besim [2017] VSCA 180; DPP (Cth) v MHK (a pseudonym) [2017] VSCA 157; Fattal v R [2013] VSCA 276. There is a crime of intentionally being a member of a terrorist organisation: 102.3(1); R v Abdirahman-Khalif [2020] HCA 36. There are crimes defined concerning international terrorist activities using explosive or lethal devices: s.72. And more.


version 17 August 2019


Crimes Act ss.71-74. The common law term "larceny" is replaced by "theft".
The basic definition of theft is dishonestly appropriating property belonging to another with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it: Crimes Act s.72.
Further explanation of theft: Crimes Act s.73.
Dishonesty has the same meaning as with obtain by deception (see below): e.g. Carrott v R [2013] VSCA 90. There is also partial negative definition of s.73 (2). A person's appropriation of property belonging to another is not to be regarded as dishonest -;(a) if he appropriates the property in the belief that he has in law the right to deprive the other of it, on behalf of himself or of a third person; or (b) if he appropriates the property in the belief that he would have the other's consent if the other knew of the appropriation and the circumstances of it; or (c) (except where the property came to the person as trustee or personal representative) if he appropriates the property in the belief that the person to whom the property belongs cannot be discovered by taking reasonable steps. A person's appropriation of property belonging to another may be dishonest notwithstanding that he is willing to pay for the property.
Appropriation: Crimes Act s.73(4), s.73(5); Nguyen v R [2015] VSCA 63. Requires an adverse interference with or usurpation of any of the rights of the owner: R v Roffel [1985] VicRp 51, [1985] VR 511; Stein v Henshall [1976] VicRp 62, [1976] VR 612; W v Woodrow [1988] VicRp 45, [1988] VR 358. Includes where there has been consent of owner as result of fraud: R v Baruday [1984] VicRp 59, [1984] VR 685. By majority in Roffel, a taking of possession of property consensual in the true sense is not appropriation; compare as so with former common law: Croton v R [1967] HCA 48, (1967) 117 CLR 326.
Property includes money and all other property real or personal including things in action and other intangible property: Crimes Act s.71. Cheques: Parsons v R [1999] HCA 1, (1999) 195 CLR 619. Land or things forming part of land: s.73(6). Wild creatures etc: s.73(7).
Belonging to another. Crimes Act s.71, s.73 (8). Not necessary to prove who the other is: Lodge v Lawton [1978] VicRp 10, [1978] VR 112.
Intention to permanently deprive is further explained by s.73(12) and s.73(13); DPP v Brownlie and Brownlie (a pseudonym) [2015] VSCA 147; R v Dardovska [2003] VSCA 4, (2003) 6 VR 628; Sharp v McCormick [1986] VicRp 83, [1986] VR 869. For a motor vehicle or an aircraft proof of taking or in any manner using without the consent of the owner or person in lawful possession is conclusive evidence of intention to permanently deprive: Crimes Act s.73(14).
Property got by another's mistake: s.73(10).
Theft can in appropriate case be put as a continuous offence (the doctrine of continuing appropriation): Putrus v R [2019] VSCA 59.
The doctrine of recent possession concerns proof of guilt. It identifies the prominent inference that may arise from circumstantial evidence where it is established that the accused is in possession of recently stolen property and offers no explanation or one which the jury is able to reject beyond reasonable doubt; but there must be proof that the goods were recently stolen before an inference can possibly arise: R v Trifilo [2009] VSCA 194; Trainer v R [1906] HCA 50, (1906) 4 CLR 126; Bruce v R [1987] HCA 40, (1987) 61 ALJR 603; R v Beljajev [1984] VicRp 57, [1984] VR 657.
Extra-territoriality is as for obtain property by deception etc: Crimes Act s.74(2).

Obtain property by deception

The crime is one of those often described as fraud by investigators, lawyers and others. It is created by Crimes Act s.81.
The basic definition is by any deception dishonestly obtaining property belonging to another with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it. s.81(1).
The deception can be deliberate or reckless and is otherwise further defined by s.81(4).
Property has the same meaning as for theft (above) Crimes Act s.71.
The element of dishonesty has been interpreted to be a mental element, specifically belief of a lack of legal right: R v Todo [2004] VSCA 177, (2004) 10 VR 244; R v Salvo [1980] VicRp 39, [1980] VR 401; R v Brow [1981] VicRp 75, [1981] VR 783; R v Bonollo [1981] VicRp 63, [1981] VR 633.
A person is to be treated as obtaining property if he obtains ownership, possession or control of it, and obtain includes obtaining for another or enabling another to obtain or to retain: s.81(3).
There must be causal connection between the deception used and the property obtained though the person deceived and the person obtained from need not be same: R v Clarkson [1987] VicRp 80,[1987] VR 962.
For deception of corporations, the person deceived does not have to be a natural person; it can be the corporation as distinct legal entity: Macleod v R [2003] HCA 24, (2003) 214 CLR 230. It is though usually sufficient if the person deceived is a natural person who in the circumstances is acting within the scope of that person's employment with the corporation; but a person who is party to the fraud could not stand as the corporation in this sense or at all: R v Jenkins [2002] VSCA 224, (2002) 6 VR 81.
Representation by conduct: Crimes Act s.81(4); R v Benli [1998] 2 VR 157.Statements as to future events only amount to deception if they mis-state present intention: R v Lo Presti [2005] VSCA 259.
Where two or more false representations are laid in one count, it is sufficient to convict if the jury is unanimously satisfied as to any one of them: Magnus v R [2013] VSCA 163; R v Holmes [2006] VSCA 73 R v Kuff [1962] VicRp 79, [1962] VR 578.
It can in appropriate case be charged as a single continuous offence: DPP v Stark [2006] VSCA 61.
Most obtain property by deception can alternatively be charged as theft: R v Baruday [1984] VicRp 59, [1984] VR 685.
Extra-territoriality: Crimes Act s.81A; R v Keech [2002] VSCA 103.

Obtain financial advantage by deception

The crime is another of those often described as fraud by investigators, lawyers and others. It is created by Crimes Act s.82.
Meaning of financial advantage is wide including credit received as for example by electronic funds transfer: Giordano v R [2010] VSCA 101. Or a loan facility as in Werden v R [2015] VSCA 72. Or evasion of a debt for however short a period as by giving the creditor a worthless cheque: R v Vasic [2005] VSCA 38, (2005) 11 VR 380; Matthews v Fountain [1982] VicRp 104; [1982] VR 1045. Or the services of an employee: Matthews v Fountain. Or employment: Taylor v R[2019] VSCA 162.
The element of deception is the same as for obtain property by deception: Crimes Act s. 82(2).
Extra-territoriality is as for obtain property by deception: Crimes Act s.81A.


Robbery is stealing, and immediately before or at the time of doing so, and in order to do so, using force on any person or putting or seeking to put any person in fear that he or another person will be then and there subjected to force: Crimes Act s.75.
The essence of a robbery is that violence is done or threatened to the person of the owner or custodian who stands between the offender and the property stolen, in order to overcome that person’s resistance and so oblige the person to part with the property; in other words, the victim must be compelled by force or fear to submit to the theft: R v Butcher [1986] VicRp 4; [1986] VR 43.

Armed Robbery

Armed robbery is robbery and at the time the offender having with the person (or her) a firearm, imitation firearm, offensive weapon, explosive or imitation explosive: Crimes Act s.75A. By this section these arms have the same meaning as for aggravated burglary, see below.
Meaning of "having with" is having the article either on the person or readily available for use: R v Hartwick [1985] VicSC 544, (1985) 17 A Crim R. 281; R v Kolb [1979] VicSC 622.

Carjacking and aggravated carjacking

Crimes Act s.79, s.79A. Created in 2016 to cover conduct which previously would have been only robbery or armed robbery particularising the property as a motor vehicle. The new offences attract differences relating to bail and the maximum sentences.


Burglary is entering any building or part of a building as a trespasser with intent to steal anything in the building or part in question; or to commit an offence - involving an assault to a person in the building or part in question; or (ii) involving any damage to the building or to property in the building or part in question - which is punishable with imprisonment for a term of five years or more: Crimes Act s.76. Building includes also inhabited vehicles and vessels: s.76(2).Trespass means the act of entry without right or authority (including entry exceeding bounds of limited authority) by one person on to the land of another who is in possession (including a person entitled to immediate and exclusive possession) with the required mental element being the accused knowing or being reckless as to the facts which make the person a trespasser: Barker v R [1983] HCA 18, (1983) CLR 338; Marks-Vincenti v R [2015] VSCA 54; R v Lambourn [2007] VSCA 187; R v Munro [2006] VSCA 94; R v Spero [2006] VSCA 58, (2006) 13 VR 22; R v Taylor [2004] VSCA 189, (2004) 10 VR 19. The trespass element is confined to a finite act, complete at the point of entry into the building, but is a continuing state, so that s.76 (1) is capable of applying to a person who enters a building as a trespasser and who, at the time of entering a particular part of the building, has the intention of committing a particular offence in that part of the building: Singh v R [2013] VSCA 300; R v Chimirri [2010] VSCA 5. Conditional intention, e.g. to steal property or assault a person who may be present, is sufficient: R v Verde [2009] VSCA 16, (2009) 193 A Crim R 211. As to lesser forms of unauthorised entry to places see Summary Offences Act s.9.

Aggravated burglary

Aggravated burglary is burglary and at the time the offender (a) having with the person or her any firearm or imitation firearm, any offensive weapon or any explosive or imitation explosive; or (b) at the time of entering the building or the part of the building a person there being then present in the building or part of the building and he or she knowing that the person was then so present or being reckless as to whether or not a person is then so present: .Crimes Act s.77. By the section "explosive" means any article manufactured for the purpose of producing a practical effect by explosion, or intended by the person having it with the person or her for that purpose; "firearm" has the same meaning as in the Firearms Act 1996; "imitation explosive" means any article which might reasonably be taken to be or to contain an explosive; "imitation firearm" means anything which has the appearance of being a firearm, whether capable of being discharged or not; "offensive weapon" means any article made or adapted for use for causing injury to or incapacitating a person, or which the person having it with him or her intends or threatens to use for such a purpose. Further on "offensive weapon": Wilson v Kuhl [1979] VicRp 34, [1979] VR 315; DPP v Woodward [2006] VSC 299; R v Nguyen [1997] 1 VR 551. For aggravated burglary, need for jury unanimity as to circumstance of aggravation, including where prosecution advances multiple circumstances: R v Secomb [2010] VSCA 58.

Home invasion, aggravated home invasion

Crimes Act s.77A, s.77B. Created in 2016 to cover conduct which previously would have been only burglary or aggravated burglary where it concerned a home and was committed in company with one or more other persons. The new offences attract differences relating to bail and the maximum sentences.

Handling stolen goods

Crimes Act s.88(1). A person handles stolen goods if knowing or believing them to be stolen goods he dishonestly receives the goods or brings them into Victoria, or dishonestly undertakes or assists in bringing them into Victoria or in their retention, removal, disposal or realization by or for the benefit of another person, or if he arranges to do so.
Theft and handling joined in the same indictment as alternative charges and tried together: s.88A.
The accused must be proven to have been in possession or control of the property, either on his or her own, or jointly with some other person or persons: Audsley v R [2013] VSCA 41.
Goods includes money and every other description of property except land and includes things severed from the land by stealing: s.71(1). The meaning of stolen goods is expanded by s.90.

Some further related crimes

False accounting. Crimes Act s.83(1); R v Senese [2004] VSCA 136. To determine whether a document is required for any accounting purpose, evidence would be expected both of the connection of the documents with the relevant accounts and also as to their requirement for that purposes: R v Heinze [2005] VSCA 124, (2005) 153 A Crim R 380. A merely prudential purpose not enough: R v Jenkins [2002] VSCA 224, (2002) 6 VR 81.

Make and use false document. Crimes Act s.83A; R v O'Hara [2005] VSCA 62; R v Gatzka [2004] VSCA 121; R v Ceylan [2002] VSCA 53, (2002) 4 VR 208.

Accident compensation fraud crimes. Motor vehicle accident and WorkCover. Accident Compensation Act.

Barristers & solicitors. Legal Profession Act, trust account and other crimes.

Estate Agents. Estate Agents Act, trust account (ss.90 & 91) and other crimes.

Property suspected to be stolen etc Summary Offences Act ss.26-34 defines some such offences (and police powers) including s.26 unexplained possession of personal property reasonably suspected to be stolen. These are offences primarily within Magistrates' Court jurisdiction.


version 21 April 2019

Traditionally regarded as the most serious of all crimes. Sometimes called high treason, there having been until 1828 another crime, known as petty treason, the non-existence of which is still subject of Crimes Act s.8.

There are Commonwealth provisions: Criminal Code in Schedule. Treason by section 80.1 mainly concerns causing death or harm to the Sovereign, the heir apparent of the Sovereign, the consort of the Sovereign, the Governor-General or the Prime Minister, also levying against the Commonwealth or preparing to do so. Treason by section 80.1AA is extended to materially assisting enemies etc and assisting countries etc engaged in armed hostilities against the ADF. These provisions have extended geographical jurisdiction D: see sections 80.4 and 15.4. This means they apply (a) whether or not the conduct constituting the alleged offence occurs in Australia; and (b) whether or not a result of the conduct constituting the alleged offence occurs in Australia. There is a defence in section 80.3 for acts done in good faith.

It is said the first and last Commonwealth treason trial was Cousens, committed for trial in Sydney 1946; the charge dropped due to lack of evidence: at Parliamentary Library; a preliminary proceeding was Ex parte Cousens [1946] NSWStRp 36, (1946) 47 (SR) NSW 145. It was alleged the defendant, an Australian army officer held prisoner of war by Japan, and formerly a Sydney radio announcer, made broadcasts for his captors. The case was brought by the Commonwealth under NSW law which adopted the Treason Act 1351 of England.

There is also a Victoria provision Crimes Act s. 9A mainly overlapping the Criminal Code presumably as safeguard against any uncertainty as to constitutional validity of the code provisions. The Victoria provision seemingly would have exclusive operation for example concerning offending against the Sovereign etc if acting specifically in Victoria capacity.

Treason in Victoria has been rarely charged, the major exceptions being in 1855 when proceedings against thirteen accused were split into seven trials for treason arising from events concerning the Eureka Stockade 1854: see e.g. public-record-office-victoria.culturalspot. The cases were brought under the Treason Act 1351 of England which then applied in Victoria. All were acquitted.

In the UK, the main provision of Treason Act 1351 still applies, albeit translated from the original medieval French. It was basis for Joyce v DPP pdf at, [1946] AC 347, case of an accused styled "Lord Haw Haw" outside the realm (in Germany) adhering to the King's enemies (in particular Germany) by broadcasting propaganda; necessity for duty of allegiance to King established in the case merely by possession of British passport. See also R v Casement at, [1917] KB 98. It is likely these cases would be influential with any Australian court required to interpret comparable provisions.


version 25 February 2021

The various crimes of this group are uncommonly charged and the old ones survive probably because they have been so little used as to evade the priorities of reformers.

Commonwealth laws which in times past created sedition crimes have been replaced since 2011 by approximately comparable laws which create crimes against urging violence: Criminal Code in Schedule sections 80.2A-80.2B. The crimes are urging the overthrow of the Constitution or Government by force or violence, urging interference in Parliamentary elections or constitutional referenda by force or violence, urging violence against groups and urging violence against members of groups. There is a defence in section 80.3 for acts done in good faith.

These Commonwealth law provisions and their Commonwealth law approximate predecessors have been little used, if at all, since R v Sharkey [1949] HCA 46, (1949) 79 CLR 121, case of alleged uttering of seditious words being certain pro Communist and pro Soviet Forces utterances, convicted and imprisoned.

In Victoria law, there have been common law crimes of seditious libel, uttering seditious words, and participation in a seditious conspiracy. There is fairly recent opinion that these still exist in Victoria: ALRC cf Review of Sedition Laws (2006) R Jordan of Aus Parlt Lib, Sedition Law in Australia (2010). The existence of a crime of publishing a seditious libel is recognised by a provision for seizure and destruction of documents: Crimes Act s.469AA.

A notable historical example of the common law crime of seditious libel in Victoria was the 1855 case against newspaper editor Henry Seekamp concerning publications preceding the Eureka Stockade 1854, convicted and imprisoned. There are newspaper reports of a Melbourne criminal trial R v Fraser 1920 search at trove nla upon common law seditious libel concerning a printer and publisher; jury was directed that mere advocacy of independence for Ireland not seditious libel, if however the language were intemperate and the real object were to incite passion and inflame hatred and contempt against the Sovereign, then would be; result jury acquittal. It appears numerous decades since these Victoria common law crimes have been charged.

In Victoria law, another common law crime that still exists is criminal defamation. It is recognised by Crimes Act s.320. An example, said to be the most recent in Victoria, was the 1950 prosecution (and ultimate acquittal) of author Frank Hardy for an aspect of his book Power Without Glory, a preliminary proceeding being Wren v Hardy pdf [1951] VicLawRp 34, [1951] VLR 256. The case was commenced as a private committal which would not be possible today. Following old authority cited in the case, after stylistic editing, it may be said that criminal defamation consists in the writing and publishing of defamatory words of any living person calculated or intended to provoke the person to wrath or expose the person to public hatred, contempt, or public ridicule, or damage the person's reputation, or words written of a person which are likely to provoke the person to commit a breach of the peace, or if seen by others, to hold the person up to hatred, ridicule or contempt, or to damage the person's reputation.

In Victoria, there are also statutory crimes of publishing any libel with intent to extort money and publishing false defamatory libel: Wrongs Act sections 4-13AA. These have been rarely if ever charged (Wren v Hardy mentions an 1876 example under earlier Victoria statute).

In Victoria, there are statutory crimes (with summary jurisdiction) of serious racial vilification and serious religious vilification: Racial and Religious Tolerance Act sections 24, 25. The Act provides also various non-criminal measures and procedures. In Victoria, there are Summary Offences Act provisions against such as using profane indecent or obscene language or threatening abusive or insulting words and disturbing religious worship. In Victoria, there is religious freedom protection in Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act which does not create any crimes, but might be relevant to criminal law process, also to penal institutions. There are Commonwealth laws against racial discrimination from Racial Discrimination Act, for example section 18C considered in Eatock v Bolt [2011] FCA 1103, which are not criminal laws. The Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act s.116 headed Commonwealth not to legislate in respect of religion, is a freedom of and from religion provision.

In Victoria, the existence at common law of the crime of publishing a blasphemous libel is recognised by a provision for seizure and destruction of documents: Crimes Act s.469AA. It appears the last case of it charged was in 1919 against Robert Samuel Ross for an anti-Christian and pro-Bolshevik commentary. According to newspaper reports, the case was committed for trial but discontinued after Ross was convicted summarily of a Commonwealth statutory offence concerning unlawful mailing of the material and, on appeal, fined. See also discussion in unsuccessful civil case Pell v Council of Trustees of NGV [1997] VSC 52.

In Victoria, the common law crime of obscene libel was accepted to exist in R v Close pdf [1948] VicLawRp 47, [1948] VLR 445. It has for very long time been uncharged. There is Summary Offences Act s.17; Fraser v County Court [2017] VSC 83. Obscenity is at the highest end of what is disgusting, repugnant, repulsive or offensive, having regard to contemporary community standards. It is to be judged according to common standards of propriety which will vary with time and place, and may be affected by the circumstances in which the conduct occurs. There is a regulatory scheme with indictable and other offences provided by Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) (Enforcement) Act.

Don Just
Barrister Victorian Bar (ret)
Melbourne, Australia

© Don Just

case and statute links mostly AUSTLII