Trespass (Tas)

People have a fundamental right to enjoy privacy without intrusion into their private spaces. As such, a person must not enter or stay on private property without the owner or occupier’s consent. It is an offence under the Police Offences Act 1935 for someone to trespass against another person’s property. This article explains the conditions and sentences for trespass in Tasmania.

Trespass In Tasmania

In Tasmania, trespass can occur in several ways, such as peering into a dwelling without lawful excuse, lurking, loitering or secreting themselves on someone’s land. A person who contravenes this law is liable on summary conviction to a penalty of not more than five penalty units or imprisonment of up to six months.

Unlawful Entry

A person cannot enter or remain where they have no legal right to stay without a reasonable excuse. The owner or legal occupier of a property can ask a suspected trespasser for their name and information. Anyone who fails to answer is guilty of an offence under the Police Offences Act.

However, some people have a contractual, common law or statutory right to enter into private premises. For instance, a home occupier signs a contract agreeing that a meter reader can enter private property without notice to discharge their duties. The Police Offences Act grants police officers the statutory authority to enter private premises to execute a warrant on an offender.

Penalties In Tasmania

Trespass in Tasmania is typically treated as a summary offence before the Magistrates Court. Sentencing is often less severe than other criminal charges and may be resolved through alternative sentencing or fines. However, a trespass offence that is related to another more serious offence may be transferred to a higher court. For example, if the trespass occurred during the course of aggravated burglary, the charges will be heard simultaneously in the higher court.

The penalty is more severe for trespassing on private dwelling-houses than other types of property. A person convicted of entering or remaining in a dwelling-house is liable for a maximum penalty of fifty penalty units or imprisonment for twelve months. On the other hand, a person who trespasses on a building, land, structure, premise, vehicle, aircraft, or vessel is liable for twenty-five penalty units or imprisonment of up to six months.

If a police officer has reasonable grounds to believe that someone is trespassing, they can (without a warrant) use whatever force and means necessary to detain and search the suspect and seize any firearm in their possession.

Related Offences

Trespassing is treated more seriously if the offender also damages property during their trespass. A person found to have damaged another person’s property is liable for ten penalty units and twelve-months imprisonment. Removal or defacement of public materials (such as signposts or boundary marks) incurs a maximum of two penalty units.

Aggravating Circumstance

A charge of trespass will be sentenced more heavily when there are aggravating circumstances. For instance, if a person convicted of trespass carried a firearm during the commission of the offence, the sentence increases to one hundred penalty units and approximately two years imprisonment. In that case, the court can also order that the firearm is forfeit to the Crown and cancel any permits or licences held under the Firearms Act 1996.

The court can also pass a sentence of double the maximum penalty if there is evidence that the offender operated an aircraft, vessel or vehicle during the commission of the offence.

Trespass Into A Sports Area

It is an offence to enter a restricted area in a sports venue without lawful excuse. In that case, a person will face a summary court hearing. If the accused is found guilty of this type of trespass, they face a sentence of either three penalty units or three months imprisonment.

There is a further offence if someone enters an area where a sports game is currently or previously conducted. The offence is treated more seriously if the offender interrupts gameplay with their actions. The best-known example of this type of trespass is the “streakers” who trespass onto a sports field during a game. In that case, a police officer can arrest the trespasser without a warrant. Additional offences may apply if the streaker is offensively dressed or undressed.

Dispersal Of Persons

Trespass can often proceed from circumstances when groups gather in public places. When groups are gathering with an unlawful purpose, they can be dispersed under anti-riot laws. The Tasmanian police also have authority under the Police Offences Act 1935 to disperse an individual or group who is likely to commit an offence such as trespass. Disobeying a dispersal order from a police officer can incur a two-penalty unit fine.

The criminal law team at Go To Court can help if you have any questions about trespass offences and sentencing in Tasmania. Please contact or call 1300 636 846 today for any legal advice or representation.

Author

Nicola Bowes

Dr Nicola Bowes holds a Bachelor of Arts with first-class honours from the University of Tasmania, a Bachelor of Laws with first-class honours from the Queensland University of Technology, and a PhD from The University of Queensland. After a decade of working in higher education, Nicola joined Armstrong Legal in 2020.
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