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Sending a Threatening Letter (NSW)

In New South Wales it is an offence to send a letter which threatens to kill or injure another person. A person can be charged with sending a threatening letter if they send or deliver a letter which they know contains a threat of death or harm. A person can also be charged if they are directly or indirectly involved in causing someone to receive such a letter.

The maximum penalty for this offence is 10 years imprisonment.

The legislation

The offence of Send Threatening Letter is contained in section 31 of the Crimes Act 1900, which states:

  • A person who intentionally or recklessly, and knowing its contents, sends or delivers, or directly or indirectly causes to be received, any document threatening to kill or inflict bodily harm on any person is liable to imprisonment for 10 years.
  • It is immaterial for the purposes of an offence under this section whether or not a document sent or delivered is actually received, and whether or not the threat contained in a document sent, delivered or received is actually communicated to the person concerned or to the recipient or intended recipient of the document (as relevant in the circumstances).

What actions may constitute sending a threatening letter?

Examples of the offence of sending a threatening letter include:

  • Posting a letter, which states, “I am going to kill you”;
  • Purchasing someone a sky diving voucher from an online site and typing the following message on the gift card, “Go jump out of a plane. I’ve made sure the parachute won’t open. This world is better off without you.”

What must be proven?

To convict a person of sending a threatening letter the prosecution must prove each of the following matters beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • That they intentionally or recklessly did an act;
  • That act caused a letter or document to be sent, delivered or received by someone;
  • That letter or document threatened to either kill or inflict bodily harm on another person; and
  • The accused knew the contents of the document or letter.

Which court will hear the matter?

The charge is a table one offence which means that the matter will be finalised in the Local Court unless the Department of Public Prosecutions or the person who has been charged elects to have the matter finalised in the District Court.

If the matter is finalised in the Local Court the court can only impose a maximum penalty of two years imprisonment.

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