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  • Home Resources & Technical Articles Criminal Offence Topics (A to Z) Computer Crime Offences Computer Crime Offences and Penalties in South Australia (SA)

    Computer Crime Offences and Penalties in South Australia (SA)

    All illegal activities with a computer can equally result in catastrophe difficult to measure, just like any other offence. Generally, computer offences are usually handled with a lot of sensitivity and thoroughness.

    Various forms of cyber, network or program-based violations fall under computer offences. That is why even though the Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935 (SA) contains some definitions and contexts about computer offences in South Australia (SA), it is supplemented by;

    It is an offence to be found damaging a person or group using technology or any digitally inclined platforms. The legislation in SA prohibits such actions and can equally classify them as criminal offences.

    If an individual is convicted in a South Australian court for a Computer Crime offence, the offence will show up as a disclosable court outcome (DCO) on a criminal background check in SA.

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

    Penalties for Computer Offences in SA

    Many acts using a computer are prohibited in the Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935 (SA) and, depending on the severity or aggravation, can attract penalties of various ranges.

    1. Use of a Computer to commit or facilitate an offence in SA

    It is a prohibited act to use a computer in a manner that causes some form of damage to persons, organisation or group. Section 86E of the Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935 (SA) include these activities as;

    • The illegal access to or modification of computer data
    • Illegal Act of obstructing or impairing an electronic communication device.

    It includes all cases where the offender knows that;

    • It is an illegal act to deal with the computer in such a manner; modifying, deleting, erasing.


    • Intentionally operated that computer to cause damage or harm to other people using the device.

    A person guilty of this offence gets the maximum penalty prescribed if the person committed the principal crime.

    Subsection 2 of section 86E of the Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935 (SA) states that an offence will still have taken place;

    • If the principal offence will happen while the person uses the computer or at any other time, and
    • Where it would be practically impossible for the person to commit such an offence

    Also, if the offence occurs, it does not absolve the person that had access to the computer at that time.

    Subsection 3 of section 86E of the Act equally indicts the person who used the computer at the time of the offence as;

    • An accessory to the offence,
    • A principal offender

    However, a person cannot be convicted of committing the principal offence and being an accessory to the crime.

    For this section, a person cannot be guilty of attempting to commit the offence.

    1. Using a computer to commit or facilitate the commission of an offence outside the State of SA

    If a person is guilty of an offence if they, without reasonable excuse, intentionally.

    Use a computer within the State to;

    • Illegally access or modify a computer data/information, or
    • Cause illegal impairment of electronic devices or communication
    • Knowing that such action was unlawful and prohibited
    • And such Act (modifying, accessing, obstructing, interfering, hacking data) is not permitted in the other jurisdiction.

    The person is guilty of an offence equal to if they had committed it in the State.

    Section 86F of the Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935 (SA) defines a prohibited Act as;

    • An offence that carries between 5 years to life imprisonment in the relevant jurisdiction where the offence happened.


    • Offences within the State constitute an offence that incurs between 5 years and life imprisonment.

    For this section, a person can still be guilty of the offence even though it was practically impossible for them to commit such an act.

    The court may convict the person even though the Act was committed other than when the charge relates.

    Like other sections, a person is not guilty of offending in this section if they only attempted to commit the offence.

    1. Illegal tampering with Computer data in South Australia

    All information or details in specific computers are strictly restricted to the permission of the person authorized. It is equally an offence for a person who has control over a computer or system of networks to modify such data without permission.

    Section 86G of the Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935 (SA) makes a person guilty of offences if they;

    • Through any direct/indirect form,
    • Cause unpermitted modification to a computer data
    • Are aware that such modification is unauthorized and illegal
    • It intends to cause harm, obstruction, dysfunction or inconvenience through impairing such data.

    It includes where such action that Impairs;

    • The responsiveness,
    • Operation,
    • The functionality of such data.
    • And where the absolute security and usage of such data is compromised.

    Where the accused person is guilty, the law stipulates imprisonment of 10 years.

    1. Illegal obstruction (impair) of electronic communication

    There are various forms of electronic communications, usually dealing with codes, fax, mails and other encrypted forms of messaging. It is a crime that a person impairs or obstructs such forms of communication using any means.

    • A person is guilty of the offence regardless of if the attempt or action was direct or indirect.
    • Intentional or reckless about the action

    The court finds a person guilty of this offence, especially if the person knows such Act was

    • An impairment to specific computers/systems
    • Was illegal, unlicensed and prohibited.

    And where they intended to;

    • Cause an unauthorized obstruction of the electronic interaction between systems/networks
    • Cause harm, havoc, inconvenience by the purposeful Act

    Section 86H of the Act lists it as an offence that attracts ten years of imprisonment.

    1. Being in possession of Computer Viruses and Harmful programs in SA

    Various computer programs only serve to impede and nullify any previously-stored or running data on the computer. These programs can range from Viruses, worms, bugs, hacks and all other remote causes.

    There is no telling the extent to which these programs can destroy, impair, or harm a computer and its systems.

    It is a criminal act for a person to possess any of these harmful programs (viruses) with intent to use them in a disruptive manner. It includes cases where the person aims to aid in committing a serious computer offence. Descriptions of these types of offences are found in section 86I of the Criminal law consolidation Act.

    It is an offence that carries a penalty reaching three years imprisonment under the law.

    For this section;

    As long as the accused person control/possession of the virus, it is immaterial that the accused;

    • Was not the original owner or author of the program or any device that contains the virus
    • Stored the program within or outside the State.

    Will a Computer Crime Offence in South Australia (SA) show up on a Nationally Coordinated Criminal History Check?

    If an individual is found guilty of a Computer Crime offence in South Australia (SA), 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.

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