Disrespectful Behaviour - Charges, Penalties and Sentencing in NSW

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Disrespectful Behaviour


In NSW, the maximum penalty for an offence under any of the ‘disrespectful behaviour’ provisions is a term of imprisonment for fourteen (14) days and/or a fine of 10 penalty units.

Legislation

The offence of ‘Disrespectful Behaviour’ was introduced on 1 September 2016 and is contained in five pieces of legislation. It is contained in:

  • Section 131 of the Supreme Court Act 1970;
  • Section 67A of the Land and Environment Court Act 1979;
  • Section 200A of the District Court Act 1973;
  • Section 24A of the Local Court Act 2007; and
  • Section 103A of the Coroners Act 2009.

The provisions are identical in the Supreme Court Act, Land and Environment Court Act, District Court Act and the Local Court Act. These provisions state:

A person is guilty of an offence under this section if:

  • the person appearing in or being represented in coronial proceedings or has been called to give evidence in coronial proceedings, and
  • the person intentionally engages in behaviour during the proceedings, and
  • the behaviour is disrespectful to the coronial proceedings or the coroner or the assistant coroner presiding over the proceedings (according to established practice and convention for coronial proceedings).

The offence is similarly set out in the Coroners Act.

A person is guilty of an offence under this section if:

  • the person appearing in or being represented in coronial proceedings or has been called to give evidence in coronial proceedings, and
  • the person intentionally engages in behaviour during the proceedings, and
  • the behaviour is disrespectful to the coronial proceedings or the coroner or the assistant coroner presiding over the proceedings (according to established practice and convention for coronial proceedings).

What Actions Might Constitute Disrespectful Behaviour?

The following actions may result in a charge of disrespectful behaviour:

  • Failing or Refusing to stand for a Judge, Magistrate or Coroner to enter the courtroom.
  • Refusing to bow when entering or exiting a courtroom during court or coronial proceedings.
  • Refusing to refer to the Judge or Magistrate as “Your Honour”.
  • Attending Court improperly or inappropriately dressed.

What the Police Must Prove

To find you guilty of an offence under these sections, the Police must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • That you are:
    • An accused person or defendant in proceedings;
    • A person appearing in or responding to coronial proceedings;
    • A party to proceedings; or
    • A person called to give evidence before court or coronial proceedings.
  • That during the course of court or coronial proceedings, intentionally engaged in behaviour; and
  • That behaviour was disrespectful to the Court, Judge, Magistrate or Coroner, according to established court practice and convention.

Exemptions

Under subsection (3) of each provision, this section cannot apply to:

  • An Australian legal practitioner, if they are acting in that capacity during proceedings; and
  • A Police Officer or other public official responsible for the conduct of the prosecution, if they are acting in that capacity; or
  • If the proceedings are in the Coroner’s Court: a person assisting the coroner, if they are acting in that capacity.

Which Court Will Hear Your Matter?

Offences under these provisions are summary offences and will be heard in the Local Court.

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

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