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Consorting Offences and Penalties in Victoria (VIC)

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Australian National Character Check (ANCC) makes every effort to provide updated and accurate information to its customers. However due to the continuously changing nature of legislations for the Commonwealth and various States and Territories, it is inevitable that some information may not be up to date. The information on the website is general information only. The contents on the website do not constitute legal or professional advice and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal or professional advice. While we endeavour to keep the information up to date and correct, we make no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, about the completeness, suitability, accuracy or availability with respect to the information.


In 2015, the State of Victoria repealed the old offence of consorting under the Summary Offences Act 1966 (Vic). The title of the new legislation was the Criminal Organisations Control Amendment (Unlawful Associations) Act 2015 (Vic).

This law aims to prohibit people from associating with individuals whom a Victorian Court has convicted of serious indictable crimes. By putting this rule in place, the State attempts to prevent further commission of offences within Victoria.

This article will look at the crime of consorting under the Unlawful Associations Act. We’ll consider the elements of the offence, the penalties, and possible defences.

If an individual is convicted in a Victorian (Vic) court for a Consorting offence, the offence will show up as a disclosable court outcome (DCO) on a Nationally Coordinated Criminal History Check.

What the Law Says

Section 124A of the Criminal Organisations Control Act 2012 (Vic) makes consorting with certain convicted criminals an offence. According to this section, anyone who has received an unlawful association notice must not associate with the person specified in that notice. In addition, such an individual must not relate with the convict in question within the following timeframes:

  • On three or more occasions in three months
  • On six or more occasions in twelve months

Anyone who violates this law commits an indictable offence and is liable to three years of imprisonment, 360 penalty units, or both. However, before a Victorian Court can find a person guilty of consorting under this law, the prosecution must prove certain elements. They will have to show the following matters beyond a reasonable doubt:

#1. That the accused associates with a convicted criminal regularly

According to Section 124A of the Criminal Organisations Control Act 2012 (Vic), a person can only be guilty of consorting if they have regularly associated with a convicted offender. By regularly, it means that the accused person must have related with the convict at least three times within three months. Otherwise, the defendant must have associated with the offender at least six times within twelve months.

#2. The accused received an official warning concerning the convicted offender

As per the law, the crime of consorting only applies to a person who has received an unlawful association notice. As such, anyone who does not receive such a notice cannot be guilty under Section 124A of the Criminal Organisations Control Act 2012 (Vic).

It is important to note that the people authorised to issue such notices are senior police officers. Section 3 of the Criminal Organisations Control Act 2012 (Vic) defines a senior police officer as a police officer who is a senior sergeant or above the rank.

Such officers can issue an unlawful association notice if they reasonably believe that:

  • The intended recipient of the notice has interacted with a convicted offender on at least one occasion.
  • Preventing the individuals in question from associating with each other would likely hinder the commission of an offence.

Another essential factor to note about unlawful association notices is police officers can only issue them in respect of a person at least 18 years old. Anyone given regarding an offender under 18 is invalid. See Section 124E(5) of the Act.

Also, anyone who gets an unlawful association notice can request permission to associate with the specified convict at an event. They can make this application to the Chief Commissioner for authority, who may refuse it or approve it. By agreeing to it, they would be granting the applicant lawful association authority.

However, the application must contain specific details to receive approval, including:

  • The applicant's name and address
  • The details of the applicable unlawful association notice
  • The name of the specified convicted offender that the applicant wishes to associate with
  • The details of the gathering or event at which the applicant wants to interact with the specified individual
  • The reasons why the applicant wants to meet with the specified individual at the event or gathering.

Finally, an unlawful association notice remains valid three years after its issuance unless revoked sooner under the law.

Jurisdiction: Which Court Will Hear The Matter

In Victoria, the court with the power to handle consorting criminal trials is the Magistrates Court.

Possible Defences to Consorting Charges

As per Section 124A of the Act, a person facing consorting charges has a defence if they can show that they associated with the relevant convict for any of the following reasons:

  • The subject of the unlawful association notice is a family member
  • There is a reason why they have to interact. However, such a reason must not be an ulterior purpose. By law, an ulterior purpose is one that intends to plan, incite, or commit an offence. It also refers to any aim to expand an organised criminal network or to avoid consorting charges.

Note that a family member under this Act means:

  • An individual who is or has been the accused's spouse or domestic partner.
  • A person who is, or has been, the defendant’s relative.
  • Someone who has had an intimate personal relationship, sexual or not, with the accused person.
  • A child who usually or regularly lives with the defendant or who previously did.
  • The child of a person with whom the accused person had an intimate personal relationship, sexual or otherwise.

It is also a defence for an accused person if they associated with the specified offender while:

  • Participating in vocational training or education
  • Working or operating a business legally
  • Getting a health service
  • Receiving legal advice
  • In lawful custody
  • Complying with a requirement, direction, or order of a court, the Adult Parole Board, Post Sentence Authority, or Secretary to the Department of Justice and Regulation.
  • Protesting, carrying out industrial action, or any other genuine political purpose.
  • At a gazetted event or gathering.
  • Complying with a granted lawful association authority.

Conclusion

As innocent as the interaction may be, associating with a criminal in Victoria can lead to jail time. If all the elements are present, it can even be an indictable offence in Victoria.

Considering the severity of this crime, it is advisable to comply with an unlawful association notice. Still, circumstances may cause you to violate the provision of the notice. The best cause of action is to apply for a lawful association authority in such cases.

And if you are unable to or get charged by the police, consult a criminal defence lawyer immediately.

Will a Consorting Offence show up on a national criminal backgroud check?

If an individual is found guilty of a consorting offence, the offence will show up as a disclosable court outcome (DCO) on the results of their Nationally Coordinated Criminal History Check.

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

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