What is the criminal offence of Intimidation?

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Intimidation is a criminal offence in NSW. Indeed, it is one of the most common offences prosecuted in NSW courts.

According to the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, Domestic violence-related stalking and intimidation incidents recorded by NSW Police increased 110 per cent from 2012 to 2021 (from 8,120 to 17,063).

Over the past decade, NSW has actually seen a doubling of the number of stalking and intimidation matters at all stages of the criminal justice system, including incidents recorded by police. In 2012, NSW Police recorded 15,760 incidents of this nature; by 2021 this had doubled to 31,568 incidents.

Under section 13(1) of the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act, a person who stalks or intimidates another person with the intention of causing the other person to fear physical or mental harm is guilty of an offence.

What conduct amounts to intimidation?

Intimidation has a broad meaning under the criminal law and captures a range of behaviours. However, the courts have defined intimidation as behaviour going “beyond rude, offensive and boorish behaviour.”

Intimidation is defined in section 7 of the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act and includes:

(a)  conduct (including cyberbullying) amounting to harassment or molestation of the person, or

(b)  an approach made to the person by any means (including by telephone, telephone text messaging, e-mailing and other technologically assisted means) that causes the person to fear for his or her safety, or

(c)  conduct that causes a reasonable apprehension of—

(i)  injury to the person or to another person with whom the person has a domestic relationship, or

(ii)  violence to any person, or

(iii)  damage to property, or

(iv)  harm to an animal that belongs or belonged to, or is or was in the possession of, the person or another person with whom the person has a domestic relationship.

What are examples of intimidation?

  • Cyberbullying of a person by publication or transmission of offensive material over social media or via email.
  • Sending threatening emails, text messages or social media posts
  • Verbal threats, although intimidation can be established even in the absence of express verbal threats

What is needed to prove intimidation?

Intimidation is an offence of specific intent. A specific intent offence requires proof by the prosecution that the accused possessed a specific intent to bring about a specific result. This means that the prosecution must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the accused intended to cause the other person to fear physical or mental harm.

For the purposes of the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act, a person intends to cause fear of physical or mental harm if he or she knows that the conduct is likely to cause fear in the other person.

However, the prosecution is not required to prove that the person alleged to have been intimidated actually feared physical or mental harm.

Further, when determining whether a person’s conduct amounts to intimidation, a court may have regard to any pattern of violence (especially violence constituting a domestic violence offence) in the person’s behaviour.

What are the penalties for intimidation?

The maximum penalty is imprisonment for 5 years or a fine of $5,500, or both. However, if the matter is dealt with summarily in the Local Court, the maximum penalty is 2 years imprisonment or a fine of $5,500, or both.

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