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Threaten Sabotage

With the rise of both terrorism and technology in the 21st century, it is a serious offence to threaten sabotage. In the ACT, threatening sabotage carries a maximum penalty of imprisonment for 15 years and/or a fine of 1500 penalty units.

What is threatening sabotage?

The offence of threatening sabotage is outlined in Section 424 of the Criminal Code 2002, which states that a person can be charged with an offence if they threaten to damage public property with the intent that another person will fear that the threat will be carried out. Sabotage is classified as an action that would cause significant disruption to government functions or services and/or economic loss.

The prosecution does not need to prove that you will actually go ahead with your threat. It is enough that the threat is made with the intention that it will be taken seriously.

A threat is defined as a statement that pain, damage or other injury will be caused to a person or to a thing. Normally a threat is made in retribution for something someone does or doesn’t do.

For example:

  • Threatening to set fire to the university because they don’t give you the marks you were expecting;
  • Threatening to slash your best friend’s car tyres because he or she went out with your ex-boyfriend or girlfriend.

Threatening sabotage isn’t necessarily related to physical property. Other threats include:

  • Threatening to hack into a government computer system.

However, you cannot be charged with an offence if you plan to, or threaten to participate in a protest, strike or lockout.

What actions might constitute threatening sabotage?

You could be charged for threatening sabotage for:

  • Writing to a government minister saying that you will damage a fuel-storage depot or a government nuclear-research facility will be harmed if the government does not take certain actions;
  • Posting content on social media suggesting that the author plans to hack government computers if the government does not take a certain action.

What the police must prove

The police must prove:

  • that you made a threat;
  • that the threat was to cause damage to a public facility by committing a property offence, or by causing an unauthorised computer function;
  • that you wanted the other person to be worried that you would carry out the threat and would create major disruption to government functions or major disruption to the use of services by the public or major economic loss.

Possible defences

Defences include:

  • that there was no threat,  that you did not intend to make a threat, that you did not intend that the other person would fear that the threat would be carried out, or that
  • the threat was not to cause damage to a public facility by committing a property offence or by causing unauthorised computer function (factual defence).
  • that your action was part of a protest, strike or lockout.

Which court will hear your matter?

Because threatening sabotage carries a maximum penalty of 15 years’ imprisonment, it is a strictly indictable offence, and the matter must be decided in the ACT Supreme Court.


The maximum penalty is 1,500 penalty units, 15 years imprisonment or both.

Other penalty options include:

If you require legal advice about threatening sabotage or in any other legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.

Andrew Fraser - Managing Associate - Canberra

This article was written by Andrew Fraser - Managing Associate - Canberra

Andrew works in the areas of criminal law and traffic law, providing practical advice in all of his clients’ matters. Andrew has, over many years, developed positive working relationships with prosecutors, magistrates and judges. His no-nonsense approach means he has a reputation for putting forward the best case possible for clients. Andrew has won many matters for his clients, including...

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