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  • Summary Offences in the Northern Territory (NT)

    There are different (lesser) punishments if a Magistrate finds you guilty of an offence under the Summary Offence Act 1923 (NT). These offences are considered less severe than those treated in indictments by a higher court. However, receiving a conviction for a summary offence does not take away that you have committed a crime. Yet, there is still a lot of difference or benefits in having an offence treated summarily.

    Summary offences are disclosed on national criminal history checks in accordance with the Spent Convictions Scheme of the NT.

    Which Court handles a summary offence?

    The Magistrate Court in the NT oversees almost all criminal proceedings in the Northern Territory. However, it can only give sentencing for summary offences or indictable offences that are treated summarily.

    All other offences that cannot be treated summarily, or are elected for a higher court will be heard by a Jury/Judge in the Supreme Court.

    Summary offences include a range of minor crimes in the Northern Territory that incur maximum penalties of less than two years imprisonment.


    The Magistrate Court in Northern Territory is a “family name” for a group of courts that hear various minor matters. It consists of any of the following courts;

    • Juvenile Court,
    • Court of Summary jurisdiction,
    • Work Health Court,
    • Local Court,
    • Family Matters Court,
    • Small Claims Court.
    • Youth Justice Court.

    Can indictable matters be heard in Magistrate Court?

    Not all indictable matters will proceed to the Supreme Court in NT. After a Committal hearing/proceeding, the Magistrate will decide if the evidence and charges are sufficient for an offence to be dealt with in a Supreme Court.

    However, where the;

    • The Magistrate does not find sufficient evidence for an indictable trial, and
    • sees the possibility of an offence,
    • The Court proceeds to hear the case summarily.

    Some Summary offences in NT

    The Summary Offences Act 1923 lists various offences that the Magistrate Court can sentence an offender.

    Some of these offences include;

    Forcible entry

    Under section 46A of Part VII of the Summary Offences Act.

    It is an offence to;

    • Breach a property security/assessor,
    • Cause a reasonable apprehension to commit such acts,

    It is irrelevant that the person entered the property or was entitled to enter.

    The Magistrate can impose up to 12 months imprisonment.

    Forcible holding or detaining

    It is an offence to claim or have ownership of land without being the “legal possessor”. It also includes all actions where the person engaged with the property as an owner would do. The Act prescribes a maximum penalty of 12 months imprisonment.

    Disturbing Religious Worship

    The Court will find a person guilty if they willfully and without legal reason, excuse or proof of any;

    • Interrupt or disrupt a congregation lawfully assembled in religious worship,
    • Assault a person in the NT or part of the group officiating in such meetings.

    The Court can impose up to 6 months imprisonment for such offences.

    Violent Disorder

    The Court will find a person guilty of conducting a violent act if;

    With another person they participated in a violent act, and;

    • It caused a sound person to fear for their life, or
    • They knew such conducts were dangerous and would result in fear for others,
    • Was reckless about the violence in the Act

    The Court handles such summary offences with a 12 months maximum imprisonment for offenders.

    Threatening Violence

    It is an offence to intimidate, annoy or incite a person by threatening to damage their properties or dwellings in the NT.

    Following the stipulations of the Act, the Court can impose penalties for up to 12 months. And if such an offence was committed at night, two years imprisonment.

    Loitering as a sexual offender

    Section 47AC of the Summary Offences Act 1923 prohibits a person with a conviction in;

    • Sexual-related offences,
    • Murder,
    • And offences of public indecency,

    Lingering or staying around specific places frequented by children (schools, parks, etc.).

    The Court can issue penalties of up to $5,000 or 12 months imprisonment terms.

    The Act also prohibits the general offence of loitering in a public place without a sufficient reason. The Magistrate can issue as much as;

    • $2,000 or
    • Six months imprisonment, or
    • Both

    Illegal use of vehicle

    It is an offence to use, tamper, interfere with a vehicle without permission and reasonably exclude. A vehicle for this section includes a boat, beast of burden, conveyance vehicles, and other modes of transport.

    The Court can impose penalties up to;

    • $1000 or,
    • Six months imprisonment, or
    • Both

    Issuing Valueless Cheques

    Section 60 of the Act prohibits the acts of;

    Attempting, discharging any debt or liability by passing a blank cheque

    The Court will sentence them summarily if it finds them guilty of the offence. The Act stipulates punishments of;]

    • $2,000, or
    • 12 months imprisonment, or
    • Both.

    However, it is a defence if the accused proves that;

    • They had reasonable grounds to believe that such cheque was legitimate for payments,
    • They had no intent to defraud.

    Giving false reports to the Police

    It is an offence to intentionally issue a misleading statement or report to the Police. It can even be severer if such actions result in the Police making futile investigations.

    For such offences, the Act stipulates maximum penalties of $11,000 or 2 years imprisonment.

    The Court can also order that the offender pays a reasonable sum to the Police/complainant or other expenses incurred from the investigation.

    Dangerous Dogs

    Section 75A of the Act prohibits all menacing actions or attacks from a dog owner.

    Anyone the Court finds guilty of this offence will be liable to a summary trial with the sentencing of;

    $5,000 as the maximum penalty.

    Committal/Preliminary hearings

    The committal hearing is a preliminary Examination Mentions (PEM) for all offences heard in a Supreme Court. It is the first step before a Supreme Court will hear any matter (indictable).

    The Court of Summary Jurisdiction must first assess all the evidence in the case in a meeting with the aggrieved parties. If the Magistrate Court;

    • Finds sufficient evidence for an indictable trial, or
    • The defendant pleads guilty to the indictable charges,

    Such matters will proceed to the Supreme Court for sentencing.

    Other legislations that handle Summary Offences in the Northern Territory

    Asides from the summary offences Act, other legislation in the NT contains summary offences. Some of them are:

    Traffic Act 1987 (NT)

    It prohibits and stipulates penalties for offences like;


    Misuse of Drugs Act 1990 (NT)

    It contains summary offences like;


    Alcohol Protection Orders

    Liquor Act 2019 (NT)

    While most of the summary offences under this Act can be settled by an infringement notice (tickets, fines, cautions, and so on), the offender may refuse the on-the-spot punishment and proceed to a Magistrate Court to object to the infringement or charge.

    Also, the law officer may commit the matter directly to a court for some degree of infringements.

    Do summary offences show up on a national criminal history check in the Northern Territory (NT)?

    Summary offences are disclosed on national record history checks in accordance with the spent convictions scheme legislation in the NT.

    Individuals and businesses can obtain national police checks online via the Australian National Character Check - ANCC® website.

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