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  • Consorting Offences and Penalties in Queensland (QLD)

    As a means of combating organised crime, Queensland introduced some restrictive laws that consequently make consorting illegal. Being charged with consorting could lead to an individual facing specific penalties.

    In this write-up, we will be taking a delve into every aspect of consorting. Specifically, this includes the legislation regarding consorting, penalties and the possible defences to the crime of consorting.

    If an individual is convicted in a Queensland (Qld) court for a Consorting offence, the offence will show up as a disclosable court outcome (DCO) on a national criminal background check in Queensland.

    Before going into these areas, there is a need to define some legal keywords relating to the crime of consorting.

    Conviction

    According to Section 77 of the Criminal Code Act 1899 (Qld), conviction refers to the court finding a person guilty or an individual pleading guilty to a charge in the law court.

    Recognised Offender

    Legally a recognised offender means an adult who has a record of being convicted for a relevant offence, whether through indictment or a summary conviction in Queensland.

    Relevant Offence

    A relevant offence refers to an indictable crime that carries a maximum of 5 years imprisonment sentence.

    Official Warning

    The legal definition for an official warning is evident in Section 53BAA of the Police Powers and Responsibilities Act 2000 (Qld). According to this Section, an official warning means a caution delivered to a person, whether in writing or orally.

    The official warning usually states that a person is a recognised offender, and continually associating with such a person can lead to the offence of habitual consorting.

    Consort

    According to Section 77A of the Criminal Code Act 1899 (Qld), consort refers to associating with an individual by seeking out or accepting to be in their company.

    Based on this law section, consorting with another may not be for criminal activity. Also, consorting could be through any electronic device.

    The Offence Of Habitually Consorting With Recognised Offenders in QLD

    According to Section 77B of the Criminal Code Act 1899 (Qld), it is an offence to frequently consort with at least two recognised offenders, whether together or individually.

    However, the crime of consorting can only occur after a person has received an official warning regarding associating with the recognised offenders.

    Under this section of the law, the maximum penalty for the crime of habitual consorting is 300 penalty units or three years imprisonment.

    Additionally, the law clarifies that a person may not face charges for habitual consorting if they only consorted with each recognised offender on a single occasion. This legislation further states that the crime of habitual consorting does not apply to a child.

    Defences to the Act of Consorting

    According to Section 77C of the Criminal Code Act 1899 (Qld), there are some circumstances under which the court may dismiss a charge of habitual consorting.

    Consequently, claiming to have been in these situations can serve as a defence against the accusation of habitual consorting. The court can dismiss an allegation of habitual consorting when:

    • The recognised offender was a close family member.
    • The consorting occurred while conducting a legal business or engaging in lawful employment/occupation.
    • The defendant associated with the recognised offender while receiving training or education at a learning institute.
    • The consorting happened while receiving medical assistance or obtaining health services for another person.
    • The accused was in the company of a recognised offender while seeking legal services.
    • Consorting took place while in custody or as a result of obeying a court order.

    In a consorting trial, proving the genuineness and the reasonableness for any of these defences is the defendant's responsibility.

    Furthermore, this law section explains who can be classified as a close family member. According to this legislation, an immediate family member refers to a child, stepchild, spouse, or someone who shares parental responsibility.

    A close family member could also be a grandparent, step-grandparent, grandchild, step-grandchild, sister, brother, step-brother, step-sister. It could be an uncle, a niece or nephew, a first cousin, an aunt, a sister or brother in law, a parent, or a son or daughter.

    Additionally, this legislation defines an educational institution. An educational institution refers to an approved education service. Specifically, this could be a state-owned educational institution or a non-state-owned institute.

    Also, the law clarifies that health service has to do with managing a person's physical or mental health. This involves counselling regarding the abuse of drugs and alcohol.

    However, a registered health practitioner or a licensed psychotherapist or counsellor must provide the health services.

    The Court That Handles Consorting Cases in QLD

    The seriousness of the offence determines the court that will listen to the case. Primarily there are two types of cases. These are civil and criminal cases. Civil cases refer to disputes between two individuals or organisations, with one party suing the other for compensation.

    While for criminal cases, this refers to offences against the community. The crime of consorting falls under criminal cases.

    Most civil cases are settled in the magistrate court, while the supreme/district court handles criminal cases.

    Purpose of Sentencing

    There are several intentions behind a court giving a sentence. The intention behind a sentence could be for:

    • Punishment

    The court may give a sentence to punish the offender for their actions justly.

    • Deterrence

    To discourage the public from engaging in a particular criminal activity, a court can issue a penalty for an act.

    • Rehabilitation

    The purpose of giving a sentence could be for establishing the conditions under which the rehabilitation of an offender can take place.

    • Safety of the Community

    The intention behind giving an offender a penalty can be for the protection of the community.

    • Denunciation

    The court can issue a sentence to condemn or denounce an offending act publicly.

    Factors that the Court May Consider When Sentencing an Offender

    When sentencing an offender, the court may consider certain factors. These factors can determine if the court will give a lesser punishment than what the offender deserves. Some of these factors include:

    • The maximum sentence for the crime the offender committed.
    • The typical penalties that the court usually gives to the type of crime committed.
    • The seriousness of the offence.
    • How much involvement the offender has in the perpetration of criminal activity.
    • The intention behind the crime, whether it was a result of hate or prejudice.
    • The negative impact of the crime on the victim in terms of injury or the loss of property.
    • Acknowledgement of offence and the willingness to take full responsibility.
    • The record of the offender.

    Bottom Line

    There are times when the law against consorting can fall to misuse. In such cases, the best option is to seek legal assistance. Consequently, this can increase the chances of the court dismissing the allegation of consorting.

    Will a Consorting Offence in Queensland (Qld) show up on a national criminal backgroud check?

    If an individual is found guilty of a consorting offence in QLD, 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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