Contamination of Goods to Cause Public Alarm


In New South Wales, contaminating goods with the 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 New South Wales if the offence involves intended public alarm or anxiety, or economic loss, within New South Wales .

In New South Wales, a court can impose any of the following penalties for a contaminating goods charge:

The Offence of Contaminating Goods

The offence of Contaminating Goods is contained in section 93K of the Crimes Act 1900 which states:

A person who contaminates goods with the intention of:

  • causing public alarm or anxiety, or
  • causing economic loss through public awareness of the contamination,

is liable to imprisonment for 10 years.

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 Contaminating Goods?

  • Spraying pesticide on a competitors organic farm crops and making a public post about it so that they lose business because they can no longer claim their produce is organic;
  • Contaminating a water supply with a virus and making that knowledge public in order to cause mass spread panic;
  • Posting a video of yourself to Facebook pretending to urinate on goods in a local grocery store (even though it was only actually water) in the hope that no one will shop at that store.

What the Police Must Prove

To convict you of contamination of goods, the prosecution must prove each of the following matters beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • You contaminated goods; and
  • Intended to:
    • cause public alarm or anxiety; or
    • cause economic loss through public awareness of the contamination.

Possible Defences for Contamination of Goods

Possible defences to contaminating goods include but are not limited to:

  • Duress;
  • That you did not intend to cause public alarm, anxiety of economic loss;

Which Court Will Hear Your Matter?

This matter is a Table 1 offence which means that either 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.

Types of Penalties

Jail: This is the most serious penalty and involves full time detention in a correctional facility. Read more.

Home Detention: As a result of amended legislation this penalty was repealed on 24 September 2018 as a standalone order but may be imposed as a condition of an Intensive Corrections Order (ICO). Home detention is an alternative to full-time imprisonment. In effect the gaol sentence is served at your address rather than in a gaol. If you receive a sentence of home detention you will be strictly supervised and subject to electronic monitoring. Read more.

Intensive Corrections Order (ICO): This option has replaced periodic detention. The court can order you to comply with a number of conditions, such as attending counselling or treatment, not consuming alcohol, complying with a curfew and performing community service. Read more.

Suspended Sentence: As a result of amended legislation this penalty was repealed on 24 September 2018. This is a jail sentence that is suspended upon you entering into a good behaviour bond. Provided the terms of the good behaviour bond are obeyed the jail sentence will not come into effect. A suspended sentence is only available for sentences of imprisonment of up to two years. Read more.

Community Service Order (CSO): As a result of amended legislation this penalty was repealed on 24 September 2018 and replaced with a Community Corrections Order (CCO). This involves either unpaid work in the community at a place specified by probation and parole or attendance at a centre to undertake a course, such as anger management. In order to be eligible for a CSO you have to be assessed by an officer of the probation service as suitable to undertake the order. Read more.

Good Behaviour Bond: As a result of amended legislation this penalty was repealed on 24 September 2018 and replaced with a Community Corrections Order (CCO). This is an order of the court that requires you to be of good behaviour for a specified period of time. The court will impose conditions that you will have to obey during the term of the good behaviour bond. The maximum duration of a good behaviour bond is five years. Read more.

Community Corrections Orders (CCO): A CCO involves the standard conditions that an offender must not commit any offence and that the offender must appear before the court if called on to do so at any time during the term of the Community Corrections Orders (CCO). Additional conditions may be imposed at the discretion of the court, both at the time of sentence and subsequently upon application by a community corrections officer, juvenile justice officer or the offender. Read more.

Fines: When deciding the amount of a fine the magistrate or judge should consider your financial situation and your ability to pay any fine they set. Read more.

Section 10A: A section 10A is a conviction, with no other penalty attached to it. Read more.

Conditional Release Order (CRO): A CRO involves the standard conditions that an offender must not commit any offence and that the offender must appear before the court if called on to do so at any time during the term of the CRO. Read more.

Section 10 avoiding a criminal record. Normally, when you plead guilty to a criminal offence, the court imposes a penalty and records a conviction. If the court records a conviction, you will have a criminal record. However, if we can convince the court not to convict you, there will be no penalty of any type and no criminal record. In all criminal cases, the court has the discretion not to convict you, but to give you a Section 10 dismissal instead. Read more.

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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