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Use Carriage Service to Menace, Harass, Offend

The offence of “using a carriage service to menace, harass, or cause offence” carries a maximum penalty of three years imprisonment.

The Offence of Use Carriage Service to Menace, Harass, Offend

The offence of use carriage service to menace, harass or offend is contained in section 474.17 of the Criminal Code contained in schedule one of the Crimes Act 1914 (Cth) and states that a person commits an offence if:

  • the person uses a carriage service; and
  • the person does so in a way (whether by the method of use or the content of a communication, or both) that reasonable persons would regard as being, in all the circumstances, menacing, harassing or offensive.

What Actions Might Constitute Using a Carriage Service to Menace, Harass or Cause Offence?

Examples of using a carriage service to menace, harass or offend include:

  • calling random phone numbers and yelling insults or threats at the person who picks up;
  • posting a Facebook status calling someone ugly and stupid;
  • sending dozens of text messages each day to a woman who doesn’t want to go on a second date with you; and
  • posting a photograph of your ex-girlfriend on Reddit with the caption “roast me” and posting the link to her social media accounts.

What the Police Must Prove

For a court to find a person guilty of use carriage service to menace, harass or offend the prosecution must prove each of the following matters beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • that they used a carriage service;
  • that the content of the communications was menacing, harassing or offensive; and
  • that a reasonable person would consider what they did to be menacing, harassing or offensive.

Aggravated Offence

The act provides that the offence is aggravated if the use of a carriage service involves private sexual material. Where the offence is an aggravated offence, the maximum penalty is five years imprisonment.


The most commonly argued defences to these charges are:

  • that you did not do the acts alleged;
  • that you did not use a carriage service;
  • that a reasonable person would not consider that what you did as menacing, harassing or offensive; or
  • in the case of the aggravated offence, to argue that the material was not private sexual material.

Other defences may be arguable in particular circumstances.

Which Court Will Hear the Matter?

The offence is an indictable offence. However, section 4J of the Crimes Act 1914 (Cth) provides that upon the consent of both the Prosecution and the Defence, the matter can be dealt with in a court of summary jurisdiction, that is, a Local Court.

If the offence is dealt with in the Local Court he maximum penalty is 12 months imprisonment.


The maximum penalty for using a carriage service to menace is 3 years imprisonment or 5 years imprisonment for the aggravated offence is five years. However courts can also order:

If you require legal advice about offences involving using a carriage service to menace, harass or offend or any other legal matter, please call Armstrong Legal on 1300 038 223 or send us an email.

Tyson Brown

This article was written by Tyson Brown

Tyson Brown holds a Bachelor of Business from Swinburne University, a Juris Doctor from RMIT and a GDLP from ANU. He is admitted as a solicitor of the Supreme Court of New South Wales and the High Court of Australia. Tyson is a valued and trusted member of the Criminal Law team, having first joined Armstrong Legal over five years...

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