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Contaminating Goods to Cause Public Alarm

In New South Wales, contaminating goods with the intent to cause public alarm or economic loss is an offence that carries a maximum of 10 years imprisonment. This offence can apply to a person who commits the offence outside of New South Wales if the offence involves intended public alarm or anxiety, or economic loss, within New South Wales.

The Offence of Contaminating Goods

The offence of Contaminating Goods is contained in section 93K of the Crimes Act 1900 which states that a person who contaminates goods with the intention of:

  • causing public alarm or anxiety, or
  • causing economic loss through public awareness of the contamination,

is liable to imprisonment for 10 years.

There are relevant definitions for ‘contaminate’, ‘goods’ and ‘economic loss’ contained in section 93J of the Crimes Act 1900.

The definition of contaminate includes:

  • interfering with the goods, or
  • making it appear that the goods have been contaminated or interfered with.

Goods are defined as including goods:

  • whether or not for human consumption, and
  • whether natural or manufactured, and
  • whether or not incorporated or mixed with other goods.

Economic loss caused through public awareness of the contamination of goods includes a reference to economic loss caused through:

  • members of the public not purchasing or using those goods or similar goods, or
  • steps taken to avoid public alarm or anxiety about those goods or similar goods.

What Actions Might Constitute an Offence of Contaminating Goods?

A charge of contaminating goods may result from the following actions:

  • Spraying pesticide on a competitor’s organic farm crops and making a public post about it so that they lose business because they can no longer claim their produce is organic;
  • Contaminating a water supply with a virus and making that knowledge public in order to cause mass panic;
  • Posting a video of yourself to Facebook pretending to urinate on goods in a local grocery store in the hope that no one will shop at that store.

What the Police Must Prove

To convict you of contamination of goods, the prosecution must prove each of the following matters beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • They contaminated goods; and
  • Intended to:
    • cause public alarm or anxiety; or
    • cause economic loss through public awareness of the contamination.

Possible Defences for Contamination of Goods

Possible defences to contaminating goods include but are not limited to:

  • That the accused did not intend to cause public alarm, anxiety of economic loss;
  • That the accused did not do the act alleged.

Which Court Will Hear Your Matter?

This matter will be dealt with in the Local Court unless a party elects to have it dealt with in the District Court.

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

Michelle Makela

This article was written by Michelle Makela

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...

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