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Unlawful Threats

What is a threat?

A threat is any communication indicating an intention to do harm. It can be communicated directly or indirectly either by words (whether written or spoken) or by conduct, or a combination of both [Criminal Law Consolidation Act (SA) s19 (3)]. For example, driving a motor vehicle at high speed on the wrong side of the road and stopping just short of another car can constitute a threat [see South Australian Police v Bednarz (SASC, 17 February 1995, Jud No S4959, unreported)].

In determining whether words or actions constitute a threat there is a difference between an intention to cause harm, and someone who is merely “sounding off” who does not intend to create any fear. For example a statement 'I feel like I could kill my husband' could be interpreted as an expression of emotions, whereas 'I want to kill my husband' is a threat to do harm.

The threat does not need to be directed at the person who heard it (see for example Carter v R (1994) 176 LSJS 112).

Threaten death

It is an offence if a person, without lawful excuse:

  • threatens to kill or endanger the life of another; and
  • intends to create a fear that the threat will be carried out, or is recklessly indifferent to whether such a fear was created.

Maximum penalty:

  • Basic offence: 10 years imprisonment
  • Aggravated offence: 12 years imprisonment is the maximum penalty.

    Examples of aggravated offences include where the victim is a child or a spouse of the defendant, or where the offence was committed intending to prevent the victim from taking legal proceedings.

[s 19(1) Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935 (SA)]

Threaten Harm

It is an offence where a person, without lawful excuse:

  • threatens to cause harm to another;
  • intending to create a fear that the threat will be carried out, or is recklessly indifferent to whether such a fear was created.

Maximum penalty:

  • Basic offence: 5 years imprisonment.
  • Aggravated offence: 7 years imprisonment.

[Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935 (SA) s 19(2)]

Threats to damage property

It is also an offence to make threats against the property of a person.

Maximum penalty:

  • Basic offence: 5 years imprisonment.
  • Aggravated offence: 7 years imprisonment.
  • Aggravated offence by threat to commit arson: 15 years imprisonment.

[Criminal Law Consolidation Act s 85(4)].

See also: Arson and property damage.

Unlawful Threats  :  Last Revised: Thu Jul 17th 2014
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