This article was written by Anastasia Qvist - Associate - Canberra

Ana is based in our Canberra office and practices in both ACT and NSW jurisdictions. Ana has over 5 years’ experience working as a criminal law advocate. Ana has appeared in the Local, District and Supreme Court in NSW and the Magistrates Court in the ACT. Ana is a strong advocate in the courtroom and has appeared without counsel in...

Using a Carriage Service For Suicide-Related Material


It is an offence to use a carriage service for suicide-related material. The offence of using carriage service for suicide-related material is contained in section 474.29A of the Criminal Code 1995 (Cth) and is punishable by a maximum penalty of a fine of 1,000 penalty units.

The Offence of Using a Carriage Service for Suicide-Related Material

The offence is committed where a person:

  • uses a carriage service to:
  • access suicide-related material; or
  • cause suicide related material to be transmitted; or
  • transmit suicide-related material; or
  • make suicide-related material available; or
  • publish or distribute suicide-related material;

AND the suicide-related material either directly or indirectly:

  • advises or motivates another to commit or attempt to commit suicide; or
  • promotes a specific method of committing suicide; or
  • provides instructions on a specific method of committing suicide;

AND the person intended:

  • to use the suicide-related material to advise or motivate another to commit or attempt to commit suicide; or
  • the material to be used by another to advise or motivate others to commit or attempt to commit suicide; or
  • the suicide-related material to promote a specific method or provide instructions on a specific method of committing suicide; or
  • the material to be used by another to commit suicide.

A person who commits the offence of using a carriage service for suicide-related material is liable to a fine of up to 1,000 penalty units.

What The Police Must Prove

In order for a court to find a person guilty of this offence, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that they used a carriage service to:

  • access suicide-related material; or
  • cause suicide-related material to be transmitted; or
  • transmit suicide-related material; or
  • make suicide-related material available; or
  • publish or distribute suicide-related material;

AND the suicide-related material either directly or indirectly:

  • advised or motivated another to commit or attempt to commit suicide; or
  • promoted a specific method of committing suicide; or
  • provided instructions on a specific method of committing suicide;

AND the person intended:

  • to use the suicide-related material to advise or motivate another to commit or attempt to commit suicide; or
  • the material to be used by another to advise or motivate others to commit or attempt to commit suicide; or
  • the suicide-related material to promote a specific method or provide instructions on a specific method of committing suicide; or
  • the material to be used by another to commit suicide.

Possible Defences

There are a number of defences available for this charge. There is an evidential burden on the person charged to raise these defences.

Defences that can be argued include:

  • the person was engaging in public discussion about euthanasia or suicide; or
  • the person was engaging in public debate about euthanasia or suicide; or
  • the person was advocating for a change to the law on euthanasia or suicide; or
  • the person did not intend to use the suicide-related material to promote a specific method or instructions on a specific method; or
  • the person did not intend the suicide-related material be used by someone else to promote a specific method or provide instructions on a specific method of committing suicide; or
  • the person did not intent the suicide-related material to be used by someone else to commit suicide

In addition to these specific defences, it may be possible to defend the charge by:

  • arguing that a carriage service was not used;
  • arguing that the subject matter did not involve suicidal material;
  • arguing that the suicidal material did not:
  • advise or motivate another to commit or attempt to commit suicide; or
  • promote a specific method of committing suicide; or
  • provide instructions on a specific method of committing suicide; and
  • arguing that the person did not possess the necessary mental element; or

What court will hear the matter?

As this offence carries a maximum penalty of a fine only it can be dealt with in the summary jurisdiction. This means the Local Court in NSW and the Magistrates Court in the ACT. If dealt with in the summary jurisdiction the maximum penalty an alleged offender can receive is reduced to a fine of 10,000 penalty units.

Section 20BQ Application – Mental Illness or Intellectual Disability

If the matter remains in the summary jurisdiction of courts in different states and territories, an alleged offender can apply under section 20BQ of the Crimes Act 1914 (Cth) for the charge to be dismissed and for them to be discharged with or without conditions on the basis of mental illness or intellectual disability.

The court will take into account the facts of the case and circumstances of the alleged offender and any other relevant material. The court will only divert an alleged offender from the ordinary criminal procedure if satisfied it is more appropriate to do so.

Penalties

As this is a Commonwealth offence if a person has entered a plea of guilty or been found guilty they will be sentenced under Commonwealth sentencing laws. Commonwealth penalties on sentence include the following:

The person can also receive other sentence options that are available in the applicable state or territory where the matter is heard. This means for offences in NSW, conditional release orders and community correction order (CCO)  are also available. For offences in the ACT, this means that good behaviour orders are also available sentencing options.

If you require legal advice on using a carriage service for suicide-related material or any other legal matter contact Armstrong Legal on 1300 038 223 or send us an email.

WHERE TO NEXT?

If you suspect that you may be under investigation, or if you have been charged with an offence, it is vital to get competent legal advice as early as possible. Our lawyers are highly specialised in criminal law and will be able to guide you through the process while dealing with the various authorities related to your matter.

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