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Importation of Steroids

In Australia, the importation of steroids over the critical quantity carries a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment and/or a fine of 1,000 penalty units. If the amount is below the critical quantity the maximum penalty is the greater of three times the value of the goods, or 1,000 penalty units.

The legislation

The offence of importing ‘tier 1 goods’ as per section 233BAA of the Customs Act only applies if the quantity of the goods exceed what is referred to as the ‘critical quantity’. For anabolic and androgenic steroids, Schedule 7, Part 1 of the Customs Regulations 2015 sets out the critical quantity as 20 grams.

If the amount does not exceed the critical quantity then the offence is contained under section 233 of the Customs Act, which is a lesser offence. This is to be read alongside regulation 5H of the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations. This prohibits goods under the critical quantity to be imported unless written permission is granted by an authorised officer under the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989. This permission may be granted on certain conditions or unconditionally.

What is importation of steroids?

There is no formal definition of importation in the Act, however, from a commonsense definition, importation could be read to be any action that introduced into the country some item or object that was previously outside of the country. According to the Australian Customs Service, the most common means of importation include post, air passengers and air cargo.

If the amount does not exceed the critical quantity, then the relevant substances are under 3C, Schedule 8 of the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations. This Schedule also sets out the requirements to be met to import performance enhancing substances under the critical quantity. Failure to comply with these requirements also give rise to a criminal offence.

What must be proven?

To convict a person of an offence under this section, the police must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:

  • They intentionally imported the goods;
  • That they knew, or were reckless to the fact that the goods were tier 1 goods; and
  • Importation of the goods:
    • Were prohibited by the regulations; or
    • Required prior approval from a specified authority which was not obtained at the time of the importation.

Possible defence

It is a complete defence to the charge of importing steroids under the critical quantity if written permission was obtained from an authorised officer under the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 in accordance with the regulations.

Which court will hear the matter?

Under Commonwealth law, an offence under section 233BAA is an indictable offence. This means that it will be dealt with in the District Court, however, it may be dealt with in the Local Court with the consent of both the prosecutor and the defendant. If the matter is finalised in the District Court, this will give rise to harsher penalties.

An offence under section 233, that is, below the critical quantity is a summary offence and will be finalised in the Local 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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