Elements of the offence
- the fact of importing, and
- that the item was knowingly imported.
Proof of importation
Importation is proved by the passage of a bag through Customs into Australia after leaving an overseas aircraft or by proving the passage of a letter through the postal network into Australia from overseas.
To prove that it is a crime it must be shown that the accused knew that it was there and what it was. In practice, this evidence is often obtained from the confessions of people arrested.
The general principle is that only crimes committed within the territorial limits of Australia can be punished in Australian criminal courts. It is well established that goods are regarded as imported when the aircraft carrying them lands in Australia or when a ship has brought them within a port. Any person in possession of a prohibited import within Australia's territorial seas is also within the reach of the Customs Act 1901 (Cth).
In addition to those people directly involved with narcotics other people can also be charged in the following circumstances:
- any person who aids, abets, counsels or procures any principal offence (that is, any of the possession or importing offences) and any person who aids, abets, counsels or procures a person who commits the first ancillary offence (that is, herself or himself an aider or abetter) also commits an offence [Customs Act 1901 (Cth) s 236]. The permutations opened up by this provision are fascinating: it may be possible to aid a person who is only concerned in the intended importation of a drug or to aid a person who aids yet another person who imports a drug. These unlikely possibilities remain untested.
- attempting to commit any offence is the same as actually committing the offence [Customs Act 1901 (Cth) s 237]. Again, while it is possible to produce theoretical offences by combining this provision with the ancillary offences set out above, charges like an attempt to aid a person who aided another person who imported drugs remain theoretical.
The content of the Law Handbook is made available as a public service for information purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice. See Disclaimer for details. For free and confidential legal advice in South Australia call 1300 366 424.