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  • Offensive Behaviour Offences and Penalties in Tasmania

    Offensive Behaviour is a crime that occurs when a person's actions upset or disturb the general order of the public. Tasmanian law frowns upon such disorderly conduct and has set up a system to discourage such activities.

    This system penalises such offensive behaviours with penalties, including jail terms.

    This article will consider the actions that make up offensive behaviour and their penalties.

    If an individual is convicted in a Tasmania court for an Offensive Behaviour offence, the offence will show up as a disclosable court outcome (DCO) on a criminal history check in Tasmania.

    Indecent or Offensive Language in Tasmania

    Section 12 of the Police Offences Act 1935 (Tas) makes it a crime to use indecent language in a public place. According to this section, it is an offence to do any of the following in a public place or the hearing of a person in such places:

    • Swear or curse
    • Sing an obscene or profane song
    • Use obscene, vulgar, offensive, indecent, or blasphemous language
    • Use abusive, threatening, or insulting words or actions that breach or were calculated to disrupt the peace.

    Offenders of this law are liable to a maximum of 3 penalty units or 3 months imprisonment.

    Drunkenness in Tasmania

    Under Section 4 of the Police Offences Act 1935 (Tas), it is a crime for a person to be drunk in a public place while with a dangerous weapon or in charge of any vehicle. A police officer who finds such an individual can seize and detain the weapon, liquor, or car as the case may be. The individual may also be liable to pay the costs of that seizure.

    Offenders of this law are liable to a maximum of 3 penalty units or 3 months imprisonment. However, if the Court convicted such a person of a similar offence within the last six months, the maximum punishment increases to at least 6 months incarceration or 6 penalty units.

    Another section regulating drunkenness in public places is Section 4A of the Police Offences Act 1935 (Tas). According to this section, it is a crime to be intoxicated in a public place and:

    • Behave in a way that can cause injury to themselves or another person;
    • Act in a manner that can damage property; or
    • Be unable to protect themselves from physical harm

    Police officers have the right to take any person they find in such a state into custody for at most 12 hours. Before taking the intoxicated person into custody, they may search or instruct another police officer to search the individual.

    In prosecuting any of these charges, the police officer can rely on the smell of the accused’s breath, their appearance, and demeanour as evidence of the accused’s intoxication.

    Public Annoyance

    Section 13 of the Police Offences Act 1935 (Tas) provides a list of actions that, if done in public, constitute a public nuisance and are, therefore, criminal acts. Such behaviours and their maximum punishments include:

    • Disturbing the public peace. Such conduct attracts a penalty of a maximum of 3 penalty units or 3 months in prison.
    • Behaving in a riotous, offensive, violent, or indecent manner - 3 penalty units or 3 months imprisonment.
    • Engaging in disorderly conduct - 3 months imprisonment or 3 penalty units.
    • Jostling, insulting, or annoying a person - 3 penalty units or 3 months incarceration.
    • Throwing, letting off, or setting fire to any firework - 3 months in prison or 3 penalty units.
    • Supplying liquor to an individual under 18 years - 10 penalty units or imprisonment for 6 months.
    • Recklessly throwing or discharging a missile in a manner that could hurt another person or damage the property of another person - 5 penalty units or 6 months in prison.
    • Taking, having, or controlling liquor while under 18 years - 10 penalty units or 6 months imprisonment.
    • Intentionally disturbing an assembly, meeting, or congregation of people assembled for religious worship - 3 months incarceration or 3 penalty units.
    • Wilfully leaving a gate or slip-panel open or making a gap in a fence to permit or cause an animal to trespass - 3 penalty units.
    • Intentionally causing or procuring an animal to trespass - 3 penalty units.
    • Allowing a stallion, boar, bull, or ram to be in a public place as the owner or keeper of such an animal - 5 penalty units.
    • Permitting a sheep, horse, ox, ass, mule, hinny, pig, or goat to stray or graze in a public place as the owner or keeper of such an animal - 1 penalty unit.

    Other Offensive Behaviour Offences

    The Police Offenses Act in various other sections criminalises some other public conduct. Other actions that come under the umbrella of offensive behaviour include:

    Begging, exposing wounds or deformities to induce sympathy and obtain money or any financial benefit. Any person that does this act in a public place is liable to a maximum of 5 penalty units or six months imprisonment. (Section 8 of the Police Offenses Act).

    Intentionally and obscenely exposing the body in a public place or view of people in a public place. This act attracts a maximum punishment of 10 penalty units or 12 months in prison.

    What is a Public Place?

    A public place under Tasmania law covers a variety of places. However, in general, it is an area that the public has access to, whether or not the location is otherwise private property.

    It includes churches, parks, piers, licensed premises, jetties, race-courses, passenger vessels, markets, meeting halls, schools, courts, banks, public toilets, and shops.

    It also encompasses public streets, car parks, petrol station forecourts, police stations, auctions, sports grounds, taxis, and theatres.

    Conclusion

    The Police Offences Act 1935 (Tas) regulates the behaviour of residents in public in the state of Tasmania. Its purpose is to protect members of the public from any conduct that may hinder their enjoyment of a public area.

    In pursuing this purpose, the law has set penalties for any person who contravenes these regulations. The punishments range from fines to jail terms. However, regardless of the eventual sentence, a conviction of any of these offensive behaviour offences leads to other severe social consequences.

    It could end up on the offender's criminal record. If it does, it can affect the convict's chances of gaining meaningful employment, education and affect their chances of international travel.

    Knowing all these, it is best for anyone facing offensive behaviour charges to hire a qualified and experienced criminal lawyer.

    Will an Offensive Behaviour Offence in Tasmania show up on a criminal background check certificate?

    If an individual is found guilty of an offensive behaviour offence in Tasmania, the offence will show up as a disclosable court outcome (DCO) on the results of their criminal history check.

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

    Sources

    Police Offences Act 1935 (Tas) - https://www.legislation.tas.gov.au/view/html/inforce/current/act-1935-044

    Police Offences Act 1935 (Tas) (Austlii References) - http://www5.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/tas/consol_act/poa1935140/

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