There are a number of different offences that can be charged as ‘trespass’ in the NT. Criminal trespass is governed by the Trespass Act and governs situations where a person enters private property without permission and when a person fails to leave property after a direction to do so. Trespass is an offence usually punished with a fine, however the offence of trespassing on premises carries a maximum penalty of imprisonment.
Trespass or unlawful entry?
The Northern Territory Criminal Code Act contains a number of ‘unlawful entry’ offences (Section 213 – 214). These offences involve entering a building unlawfully with the intention of committing a crime, for example, stealing. In the absence of an intent to commit a crime, a person who enters unlawfully is guilty only of trespass.
Trespass on premises
Under Section 5 of the Trespass Act, it is an offence to trespass on premises. This offence is punishable by a maximum of 20 penalty units or imprisonment for 6 months.
Premises includes a building or structure, a dwelling-place, a yard, garden, vehicle, vessel or aircraft.
It is a defence to an offence against this section if the person proves that it was necessary to be on the premises for the person’s protection or for the protection of another person or because of an emergency involving a person’s property.
Trespass on prohibited land
Under Section 6 of the Trespass Act, it is an offence to trespass on prohibited land. This carries a maximum penalty of a fine of 20 penalty units.
Prohibited land includes any Crown land, land occupied by the Territory or the Commonwealth or land occupied by a statutory corporation where a notice has been posted saying that trespassing is prohibited.
It is a defence to an offence against this section if:
- The person did not see the notice and could not be reasonably assumed to have seen it; or
- The trespass was accidental and was done while hunting or pursuing game.
Trespass after direction to leave
It is an offence under Section 7 to trespass on a place after a direction by the police or the occupier to leave. A person who fails to leave a place after such a request commits an offence punishable by a maximum penalty of 20 penalty units.
It is a defence to an offence against this section if the person proves that it was necessary to be on the place for the person’s protection or for the protection of another person or because of an emergency involving a person’s property.
Trespass after warning to stay off
Section 8 of the act makes it an offence to trespass on a place within a year of being given a warning to stay off that place by an occupier. This offence is punishable by fine only, with a maximum fine of 20 penalty units.
It is a defence to an offence under this section if the person who gave the warning is no longer an occupier of the place, or if it was necessary to be on the place for the person’s protection, the protection of another person or because of an emergency involving a person’s property.
Power of removal
If a person fails to leave a place after being directed to do so or after being warned to stay off, the police may arrest them and may remove them by force.
It is common for homeless people in the Darwin area to be charged with trespass offences under Section 6. An alternative course of action for the police when homeless people are found camping on Crown land is simply to issue them with a ‘move on’ direction.
Trespass laws can also overlap with domestic violence laws as a person will commonly give a direction to leave under Section 7 or a warning to stay off under Section 8 to a person entering premises in the context of domestic violence. If such directions are not effective, the person may apply for a domestic violence order and/or seek to have the offender prosecuted for trespass.
If you require legal advice about a criminal matter or any other legal matter please contact Go To Court Lawyers.