In Queensland, the Criminal Code 1899 contains several offences involving the making of threats. These include threatening violence, threatening to distribute intimate images and causing death by threats. This page outlines what offences consisting of threats exist in Queensland.
What is a threat?
A threat is an ordinary English word meaning ‘a statement of intention to do harm’.
Under the criminal law, a threat must be of a nature and level of seriousness that an ordinary person might be influenced by it or made fearful by the statement. A threat can be written or spoken.
This is an objective test, meaning that it will be assessed based on what an ordinary person would think. The court will not have regard to what the alleged victim actually thought or felt.
Under section 359 of the Criminal Code 1899, it is an offence for a person to threaten to cause a detriment to another person with the intent of:
- preventing or hindering them in doing something that they are lawfully entitled to do
- to compel them to do an act that they are lawfully entitled not to do
- to cause public alarm of anxiety
This offence carries a maximum penalty of imprisonment for five years, or ten years if the threat is made to a law enforcement office.
Under section 75 of the Criminal Code 1899, it is an offence for a person to:
- threaten to enter of damage premises with intent to intimidate or annoy
- discharge a firearm or do an act that is likely to cause a person to fear bodily harm or damage to property.
This offence is punishable by a maximum penalty of two years imprisonment or five years imprisonment if the offence occurs at night.
Threatening to distribute images
Under section 229A of the Criminal Code 1899, a person commits an offence if they:
- threaten to distribute an intimate image or video recording of another person without the other person’s consent and in a way that could reasonably cause distress; and
- the threat is made in a way that would cause the other person fear of it being carried out.
This offence carries a maximum penalty of three years imprisonment.
Threatening murder in document
Under section 308, a person who knowingly causes another person to receive a document containing threats to kill a person commits an offence. This offence is punishable by a maximum penalty of seven years imprisonment.
Pleading guilty to threats
A person who is considering pleading guilty to a threat offence should be aware of the likely penalties that will apply to them. A person who is sentenced for an offence involving threats may receive a sentence of imprisonment. They may also receive a non-custodial sentence such as a fine, Intensive Corrections Order or Community Service Order.
The actual sentencing orders that are imposed will depend on the circumstances of the offence and the circumstances of the offender. This will include whether the offender has a prior criminal record and whether there were any mitigating or aggravating factors present when the offence occurred.
Pleading not guilty to threats
There are several reasons a person may plead not guilty to an offence involving a threat. This may be because the alleged offence did not occur or because there is a legal defence that applies.
A person may also decide to plead not guilty if the prosecution case appears weak and there is a chance that the elements of the offence will not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
The offences outlined above can be dealt with in the lower courts (Magistrates Court and Children’s Court) where the prosecution agrees to this. In some cases, where the allegations are particularly serious, the prosecution may not agree to this. The matter will then have to be committed to a higher court for finalisation.
In the lower courts, the maximum penalty that can be imposed for a single offence is three years imprisonment.
If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Go To Court Lawyers.