This section includes maximum penalties and other information about a range of computer-related offences, which are laid out in the Criminal Code 2002.
Most offenders recently dealt with in the ACT on the more serious computer charges have received sentences of imprisonment by way of periodic detention, but all sentencing options remain available and Good Behaviour Orders are regularly employed in these matters.
A non-conviction order, however, is rare.
Unauthorised Access, Modification or Impairment with Intent to Commit Serious Offence
The maximum penalty for this charge is the same as if the person had committed, or enabled the commission of the serious offence.
A “serious offence” is defined as one that carries a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment or more.
The Prosecution has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person knew that the access, modification or impairment was unauthorised. Further, the Prosecution has to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the person intended to commit, or enable the commission of the other, serious offence. The access, modification or impairment is not unauthorised only because the person had an ulterior purpose for causing it.
It is possible to be found guilty of this offence even if it were impossible for the serious offence to be committed and whether the serious offence was committed at the time of the unauthorised action or at some later time.
Unlike many other charges on the statute book, it is not an offence to attempt to commit this offence.
Only one offence of this nature has been dealt with in the ACT Magistrates Court in the two years to 30 June 2014, with the offender being placed on a Good Behaviour Order.
The Supreme Court dealt with four matters in the same period, with each offender being sentenced to periodic detention.
Unauthorised Modification of Data to Cause Impairment
A maximum penalty of 1000 penalty units and/or 10 years’ imprisonment is faced by anyone committing the offence of unauthorised modification of data to cause impairment.
The Prosecution must prove that the person knew the modification was unauthorised and intended by the modification to impair access to or to impair the reliability, security or operation of data held in a computer. It is enough that the person was reckless about those things to be found guilty.
A person can be found guilty of this offence even if there is or will be no actual impairment to access to, or the reliability, security or operation of, data held in a computer.
In the two years to 30 June 2014, two people were dealt with in the Supreme Court under this charge. Both received periodic detention.
Unauthorised Impairment of Electronic Communication
This charge carries a maximum penalty of 1000 penalty units and/or 10 years’ imprisonment.
To be found guilty, a person must know that the impairment was unauthorised and must have intended to, or been reckless about, causing the impairment.
Possession of Data with Intent to Commit Serious Computer Offence
The maximum penalty for this offence is 300 penalty units and/or three years’ imprisonment.
“Possession or control of data” has been given a broad meaning. It includes possession of a computer or data storage device holding or containing the data; possession of a document in which the data is recorded; or control of data held in a computer that is in the possession of someone else (whether the computer is in or outside the ACT).
It is not an offence to attempt to commit this offence.
A person can be found guilty of this offence even if committing the serious computer offence was impossible.
Producing, Supplying or Obtaining Data with Intent to Commit Serious Computer Offence
A person commits this offence if the person produces, supplies or obtains data with the intention of committing, or enabling the commission of, a serious computer offence.
The maximum penalty is 300 penalty units and/or three years’ imprisonment.
Again, a person can be found guilty even if it were impossible for the serious computer offence to have been committed.
Unauthorised Access to Or Modification of Restricted Data Held in Computer
The maximum penalty for this offence is two years’ imprisonment and/or a fine of up to 200 penalty units.
“Restricted data” is defined as “data held in a computer to which access is restricted by an access control system associated with a function of the computer”.
Unauthorised Impairment of Data Held in Computer Disc, Credit Card Etc
The knowing and intentional unauthorised impairment of the reliability, security or operation of data held in a computer disc, credit card or other device used to store data by electronic means is punishable, on conviction, by up to two years’ imprisonment and/or a fine of up to 200 penalty units.
Penalties The Court Can Impose For Computer-Related Offences
Click to view a description for each of the penalties listed below.
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