Making False Statements Concerning Contamination
In New South Wales making false statements concerning the contamination of goods with 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 NSW if the offence involves intending to cause public alarm or anxiety, or economic loss, within NSW.
The Offence of Making False Statements Concerning Contamination of Goods with Intent to Cause Alarm or Economic Loss
The offence of making false statements concerning contamination of goods with intent to cause public alarm or economic loss is contained in section 93M of the Crimes Act 1900 which states that a person who makes a statement that the person believes to be false:
- with the intention of inducing the person to whom the statement is made or others to believe that goods have been contaminated, and
- with the intention of thereby:
- causing public alarm or anxiety, or
- causing economic loss through public awareness of the contamination,
is liable to imprisonment for 10 years.
For the purposes of this section, making a statement includes conveying information by any means.
There are relevant definitions for ‘contaminate’, ‘goods’ and ‘economic loss’ contained in section 93J of the Crimes Act 1900.
The definition of contaminate includes:
- interfere with the goods, or
- making it appear that the goods have been contaminated or interfered with.
Goods are defined as including:
- 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 Making False Statements Concerning Contamination of Goods with Intent to Cause Public Alarm or Economic Loss?
A person may be charged with this offence based on:
- making a fictitious report to a local newspaper that an employee at a local restaurant has been putting sleeping tablets in some of the dishes;
- making an anonymous tip off on radio that a popular medication has been contaminated and its use is causing side effects;
- calling the media and telling them that you saw someone dumping toxic waste at a number of popular children’s parks.
What the Police Must Prove
To convict a person of making false statements concerning contamination of goods with intent to cause public alarm or economic loss, the prosecution must prove each of the following matters beyond a reasonable doubt:
- That the accused made a statement; and
- They believed this statement to be false; and
- They intended to induce the person to whom the statement was made or others to believe that goods had been contaminated; and
- They intended thereby to:
- cause public alarm or anxiety; or
- cause economic loss through public awareness of the contamination.
Possible Defences for Making False Statements Concerning Contamination of Goods with Intent to Cause Public Alarm or Economic Loss
Possible defences to this offence include:
- That the accused did not intend to cause public alarm, anxiety of economic loss;
- That the accused did not make the statement alleged;
- That the accused did not believe the statement to be false (although other substitute charges may apply)
Which Court Will Hear Your Matter?
The DPP or an accused can elect to have the matter dealt with in the District Court. If no election is made it will be dealt with in the Local Court.
If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.