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  • Home Resources & Technical Articles Criminal Offence Topics (A to Z) Computer Crime Offences Computer Crime Offences and Penalties in the Northern Territory (NT)

    Computer Crime Offences and Penalties in the Northern Territory (NT)

    Computers and other digital tools have become intertwined with daily lives and government and business functions worldwide. However, it is not uncommon for unscrupulous people to illegally circumvent or use these devices illegally to cause harm, unfair gain and destruction of important files.

    The Criminal Code Act 1983 (NT) describes various crimes and offences under the Territory legislation with specified punishments. Computer and other cyber crimes as demonstrated mainly by Division 10 and section 276 of the Act.

    If an individual is convicted in a Northern Territory (NT) court for a Computer Crime offence, the offence will show up as a disclosable court outcome (DCO) on a criminal background check in Western Australia.

    The offence will be disclosed on a criminal history check in accordance with the Spent Convictions Scheme in the Northern Territory.

    Penalties for Computer Offences

    There are various computer offences; the term is usually a broad connotation of offences committed on a digital platform. Computer offences can range from the illegal Activities of hacking another person’s computer to illegally accessing data on a public computer.

    Some of the Computer offences under the Criminal Code Act 1983 (NT) include;

    1. Unlawful access to data in the NT

    It is an offence under the Act for a person to illegally get access to data in a computer for reasons including;

    • To cause harm to a person concerned in the data.
    • Gain an unfair advantage or benefit through such access. It doesn’t matter if the gain was direct or indirect at any point.

    The person is guilty of an offence that carries up to 10 years imprisonment.

    It is also an indictment on a person who unlawfully uses data that was accessed illegally. It is immaterial that they were the original perpetrators of the offence. However, it may be a defence that a person does not know that it was illegally accessed.

    A person guilty of this offence faces ten years imprisonment before an NT court.

    1. Unlawful modification of data in the NT

    It is an offence for a person to modify or alter data in a computer in a manner that makes them damaged or deceitful. It also includes cases where the person intended to;

    • Modify,
    • Impair,
    • Impede,
    • Alter,
    • Damage
    • Or distorts the meaning of the content in the document.

    A person indicted in this offence is liable to 10 years imprisonment.

    For this section, a person can be found guilty of modifying the data if they initiate or cause a chain of events that causes the alteration. A person can be found guilty of this offence if they are rightfully indicted in the Act in any form.

    It incurs the same punishment as the original offence (10 years), imprisonment.

    1. Unlawful impairment if electronic communication

    It is illegal and a serious charge to impair or affect electronic communication between computers or public devices. It is also an offence to impair or obstruct any computers, especially those restricted in a public space.

    Anyone the court finds guilty of this offence is liable to an imprisonment term of up to 10 years imprisonment.

    1. Illegal Use of Access time

    Using the computer time allotted to another person on a computer or telecommunication network is an offence. It is an offence that incurs as much as three years imprisonment for all offenders.

    Jurisdiction of Cyber offences in the NT

    There are various ways a person can be guilty of committing a computer-related offence in the NT. Section 276F of the Criminal Code Act 1983 (NT) lists a crime where the person;

    Commits a computer-based offence within the Territory or

    The person commits a computer offence anywhere (not necessarily in the Territory) that causes an;

    • Impairment of communication,
    • Alteration in data,
    • Modification,
    • Unlawful access to the data.

    Terms used in Court

    Arguing a computer offence-based crime can be tricky in a court. All parties should be familiar with the technical terms of the matter to preserve accuracy in Court.

    For this matter, a computer means;

    A single processing device that is either connected to a network or not within a communications system. It also includes several computers being formed or connected in a network or communications system.


    • Data

    A representation or form of information, especially where it is crucial in an aspect. It can be a program or any part of a program.


    • Data in a computer

    Speaking of data stored in a computer can be ambiguous unless with the context of the data.

    It includes data in a rewritable or external device connected or attached to the computer.

    Data held in a storage network of which a computer is a part of


    • Electronic communication

    It is the interaction between two connected electronic devices by any form of electrical or electromagnetic energy.


    • Modification of data

    Any form of change or adjustment to data that distorts the original message in any form for whatever purpose is an illegal act. Modification includes;

    • ✔ Removing or deleting certain aspects of the data
    • ✔ Adding certain information to the data

    It is also an offence to cause impairment to an electronic communication system or alter the information they process.


    • Forgery

    There are many forms of computer or cyber offences in the NT. Most times, forgery, deceit and other crimes are treated under cybercrimes. Section 258 of the Criminal Code Act 1983 (NT) prohibits all deceitful acts that produce or result in fake documents.

    Per the Act, it is a crime for a person in a bid to get a benefit;

    • ✔ Make as genuine a false record, writing or document
    • ✔ Allow the public to believe and adopt such records as true
    • ✔ Alter an existing composition through any means
    • ✔ Altering official deeds, documents, receipts and other binding documents

    It is an offence that attracts as much as seven years imprisonment

    What Court handles a computer crime offence in the NT?

    A court will hear a matter depending on how grievous it considers the offence under the law. The NT designates the lower courts for less severe issues (Summary offences in the NT), while higher courts hear indictable matters in the NT.

    When dealing with summary offences, the law stipulates a minimum period before the prosecutor or complainant files a charge.

    Can the Court change a charge?

    If a court concludes a person is guilty of an offence other than the one they are charged with, it will re-commit their offences. It doesn't matter if the new charge is lesser or more severe than the original charge.

    While the Criminal Code Act 1983 (NT) prescribes the likely penalty, a court can issue more than prescribed where it feels necessary. Similarly, a court can issue alternative sentencing where necessary.

    Will a Computer Crime Offence in the Northern Territory (NT) show up on a national criminal history check?

    If an individual is found guilty of a Computer Crime offence in the Northern Territory (NT), the offence will show up as a disclosable court outcome (DCO) on the results of their police clearance check.

    Individuals can obtain a nationally coordinated criminal history check online via the Australian National Character Check - ANCC® website.

    Sources

    Criminal Code Act 1983 (NT) - https://legislation.nt.gov.au/en/Legislation/CRIMINAL-CODE-ACT-1983

    Technology Safety Australia (Legal Guide to Relevant Criminal Offences in the NT) - https://techsafety.org.au/blog/legal_articles/legal-guide-to-relevant-criminal-offences-in-the-nt/

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