Clarity Law

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Monday, 29 April 2024 14:26

Understanding Threat Charges under Section 359 of Queensland's Criminal Code

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Criminal cases in Queensland can be incredibly complex, and charges involving threats carry significant weight and potential repercussions. Threat charges, as outlined in Section 359 of Queensland's Criminal Code are very serious. This comprehensive guide is designed to provide detailed insights into the gravity of these charges, the penalties that can be imposed, and how individuals can protect their rights and understand the intricacies of the law.

 

Understanding the Charge

Section 359 of Queensland's Criminal Code addresses the act of threatening a person to cause detriment with the intent to prevent or hinder them, compel them to act, or cause public alarm or anxiety. Such a charge, when proven in court, can result in severe penalties and is treated with the utmost seriousness by the legal system.

 

The Prosecution's Burden of Proof

When a threat charge is brought before the court, the prosecution must meet several conditions to secure a conviction. These include proving beyond a reasonable doubt the elements of the threat, as well as demonstrating the intent behind the threat and the resulting circumstance of harm or public concern.

In general the prosecution must prove;

  1. The defendant threatened to cause a detriment to another.
  2. With intent to:
  • prevent or hinder any person from doing any act which the other person is lawfully entitled to do; or
  • compel any person to do any act which the other person islawfully entitled to abstain from doing; or
  • cause public alarm or anxiety.

 

The Meaning of Threatened

The definition of 'threatens' is given its ordinary meaning, and a threat must be of such a nature and extent that it might intimidate or cause apprehension in an ordinary person. Furthermore, Section 359 requires that the threat be made with specific intentions and against specific individuals or members of the community.

 

The Meaning of Detriment

"detrimentincludes the following—

(a) apprehension or fear of violence to, or against property of, the stalked person or another person;

(b) serious mental, psychological or emotional harm;

(c) prevention or hindrance from doing an act a person is lawfully entitled to do;

(d) compulsion to do an act a person is lawfully entitled to abstain from doing.

Examples—

A person no longer walks outside the person’s place of residence or employment.
A person significantly changes the route or form of transport the person would ordinarily use to travel to work or other places.

A person sells a property the person would not otherwise sell.

 

Circumstances of Aggravation

Certain factors, known as circumstances of aggravation, can intensify a threat charge. These involve making a threat to a law enforcement officer or an individual assisting with law enforcement duties, particularly when related to the investigation of a criminal organization.

Circumstances of aggravation have a sobering effect on the severity of a threat charge, and they can lead to heightened penalties upon conviction. Defendants must approach these aspects of the law with the utmost seriousness and strategic legal guidance tailored to their specific case.

 

Penalty for Threats

The maximum penalty for making a threat is 5 years imprisonment.  If however the threat is to a police officer investigating a criminal organisation the maximum penalty increases to 10 years imprisonment.

 

Which Court Hears the Charge?

While the charge will first start in the Magistrates court it must be finalised in the District Court.

 

Defending Against Threat Charges

Facing a threat charge is a daunting prospect, but it is not without avenues of defence. Each case is unique, and the defence strategy must be built on the individual facts and circumstances surrounding the charge.

Some possible defences might include;

  • It was not the defendant who made the threat or the police cannot prove it was the defendant;
  • The words or actions were not in fact a threat
  • No threat to cause detriment was made
  • There was no intention by the defendant to prevent, hinder, cause alarm or anxiety to the other person

 

Engage an Experienced Lawyer

The most vital initial step for anyone confronted with a threat charge is to seek legal advice from a seasoned professional adept at navigating Queensland's criminal justice system. An experienced lawyer can provide invaluable insights, helping to formulate a comprehensive defence strategy and ensuring that the individual's rights and interests are protected.

 

Conclusion

The charge of threats under Section 359 of Queensland's Criminal Code is a profoundly serious matter, with the potential to impact individuals on multiple levels. It is a complex charge, drawing a fine line between protected speech and the law's protection of individuals and public order.

For those navigating the intricate details and potential ramifications of a threat charge, the guidance of an experienced legal partner can make a significant difference in the process and the ultimate outcome.

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Steven Brough

Steven Brough is a criminal defence lawyer and founder of Clarity Law with over 22 years experience he has appeared in almost every court in Queensland representing clients charged with criminal offences and getting them the best outcome possible.