This article was written by Michelle Makela - Legal Practice Director

Michelle has over 15 years experience in the legal industry, working across commercial litigation, criminal law, family law and estate planning.  Michelle has been involved in all practice areas of the firm and in her personal practice has had experience in litigation at all levels (state and federal industrial tribunals, the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, the Federal Court, Federal...

Computer Offences


This article provides information about a range of computer-related offences, which are laid out in the Criminal Code 2002.

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 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, and that the person intended to commit, or enable the commission of the other, serious offence.

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 by it they intended to impair access to, or the reliability, security or operation of, data held in a computer. A person can be found guilty of this offence even if there is or will be no actual impairment.

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 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.

A person can be found guilty even if it was 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

This offence involves the intentional unauthorised impairment of the reliability, security or operation of data held in a computer disc, credit card or other device.

It is punishable, on conviction, by up to two years’ imprisonment and/or a fine of up to 200 penalty units.

If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.

WHERE TO NEXT?

If you suspect that you may be under investigation, or if you have been charged with an offence, it is vital to get competent legal advice as early as possible. Our lawyers are highly specialised in criminal law and will be able to guide you through the process while dealing with the various authorities related to your matter.

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