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  • Fraud Offences and Penalties in South Australia (SA)

    Fraud offences form part of the general offences under stealing, theft, and illegally obtaining property from another person or the victim. It also includes using dishonest or deceptive means to appropriate the property they did not have legal control.

    The Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935 (SA) governs actions classified as Fraud under Deception Crimes in Division 5 of Section 139. Before introducing this part under the Act, it was governed under the Common Law offences relating to dishonesty.

    If you are convicted by a South Australian court for the offence of Fraud, the offence will show up on a national police check in SA. The disclosure of the offence on the criminal history check will be according to the rules of South Australia's spent convictions scheme.

    What is an offence of deception in South Australia?

    Section 139 of the Act defines an act of deception or related offence where the person intentionally or recklessly;

    • Obtain any benefits for themselves dishonestly; or,
    • Causes some form of damage or disadvantage to the victim through dishonest means.

    Which Court handles a Fraud Offence in SA?

    In South Australia, Fraud offences are handled as indictable offences before a Judge or Jury. However, depending on the parties or circumstances around the case, it may be treated summarily in a Magistrate Court.

    Summary Offences (minor offence) handled in a Magistrate Court usually attract penalties of less than two years.

    If a Fraud matter is settled as an Indictable offence, it will incur severe penalties from the Court.

    What penalties does the Court in SA impose for an indictable offence for Fraud?

    Indictable offences of Fraud usually attract a ten-year penalty term if handled in a Supreme or District Court. However, circumstances of aggravation can cause the Judge or Jury to review the penalties to a 15-years imprisonment term.

    However, the Court will not always impose the maximum penalties but consider the factors and impact of the fraud offence.

    Other types of Fraud offences (Deception) in South Australia (SA)

    There are various forms that a fraud case (Deception) can assume in South Australia. And convictions in this offence carry custom penalties.


    • Dishonest communication with children

    There is a particular offence for trying to deal dishonestly with a child (under the age of 17), especially with the intent of misleading or tricking them. The crime includes all activities where a person (accused) over 18 years;

    • ✔ Deals or communicate with a child dishonestly,
    • ✔ Makes misleading statements in such communication and confuse them with the fact
    • ✔ Deceptively meets or arranges to meet with the child.

    It includes situations where the person falsely represents their age or identity while dealing with the child.

    Section 139A of the Act prohibits these acts and prescribes a maximum imprisonment term of 5 years. However, if such actions intend to commit an offence against the child, the punishment increases to 10-years imprisonment.

    If the Judge finds a person guilty of such offence, the law prescribes punishments up to a ten years imprisonment term.


    • Dishonest dealing with a Document

    False documents under the Div 6, section 140 is a legal document which gives misleading information about its;

    • ✔ Nature, effect or legitimacy,
    • ✔ An important fact or capacity on which its validity depends,
    • ✔ The existence of a transaction or dealings
    • ✔ Subsection 4 finds a person guilty of this offence if they engage with such false document to;
    • ✔ Deceive or encourage the deception of another person,
    • ✔ Exploit/Manipulate the ignorance of an unsuspecting person
    • ✔ Manipulate or obstruct a program, machine or software, or to promote such acts.

    And the accused person commits any of such acts to;

    • ✔ Create again or financial benefit for himself,
    • ✔ Cause a loss, detriment or financial disadvantage to others.

    If the Judge finds an accused person guilty of this offence, the Act prescribes punishments as high as a 10-years imprisonment term.

    However, if there is an aggravating circumstance in the offence, the Judge can issue up to a 15-years imprisonment term.


    • The offence of Concealing or Suppressing a false document

    The Act defines a person to be guilty of this offence strictly if there is evidence the accused person committed any of these Act;

    • ✔The person intentionally and knowingly attempts to hide or suppress the document,
    • ✔The person failed to reveal or expose such document but was unable to do so, even though it was their obligation,
    • ✔The person knowingly dishonestly responds/frustrates inquiries that would expose such a document.

    The Judge will incur the same penalty for the offence of dealing with a false record;

    • ✔ Ten years imprisonment term,
    • ✔ Fifteen years for aggravated crimes.

    • Possessing a False document

    An accused person is guilty of possessing or harbouring a false document if such is found in their possession without lawful excuse. It also includes where the person keeps or owns any of the equipment used to falsify a document.

    The Court imposes a maximum penalty of 2 years imprisonment for such offences.


    • The offence of Dishonesty Manipulating a Machine

    Division 7, section 141 of the Act defines all fraudulent offences involving a machine or any program that acts like one.

    A person is guilty of this offence if they dishonestly use a machine or program to;

    • ✔ Benefit themselves or gain other advantages, or
    • ✔ Cause any form of loss to others

    For this offence, the Judge/Jury can impose imprisonment terms of up to 10 years.


    • Taking advantage of a Machine malfunction

    It is also an offence to enjoy dishonest benefits from a machine malfunction. If the person deals with such malfunctioning machine to;

    • The detriment of others,
    • Enjoy a specific gain.

    The person will be guilty of an offence that incurs 10-years imprisonment.


    • Dishonest exploitation of an advantage

    Section 142 and Division 8 prohibits all acts of dishonestly using some advantage over another person.

    It includes cases where;

    • ✔ A person with no disability has over a person with a mental or other physical disability.
    • ✔ The advantage of knowledge or familiarity that a person has over another over a particular matter.
    • ✔ And the offender exploits such to the benefit of themselves or the loss of others.

    The Court can, regarding the Act, impose punishments up to 10-years imprisonment term.


    • Other Fraud or Deception acts in South Australia

    Some of the penalties for Fraud are comparable to those of stealing offences in SA. The Act also prescribes two years imprisonment for some "miscellaneous offences of dishonesty". It includes;

    1. A person dishonestly interferes with a label or merchandise,
    2. The person knowingly makes off without paying for goods or services delivered to them.

    However, this section is irrelevant where the supply of goods or services is;

    Will a Fraud conviction in South Australia (SA) show up on a nationally coordinated criminal history check?

    If an individual is convicted in a South Australian court for the offence of Fraud, 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 police check online via the Australian National Character Check - ANCC® website.

    Sources

    Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935 (SA) - https://www.legislation.sa.gov.au/LZ/C/A/CRIMINAL%20LAW%20CONSOLIDATION%20ACT%201935/CURRENT/1935.2252.AUTH.PDF

    Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935 (SA) (Austlii) - http://classic.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/sa/consol_act/clca1935262/

    Legal Services Commission of South Australia (SA) - https://lsc.sa.gov.au/dsh/print/ch11.php

    Law Handbook South Australia (Deception) - https://lawhandbook.sa.gov.au/ch12s06s02s04.php

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