Terrorism Offences

Terrorism offences are dealt with under the Commonwealth legislation (the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth)), which means they are applicable Australia-wide.

There are numerous provisions related to terrorism, including:

  • Engaging in a terrorist act (section 101.1),

  • Providing or receiving training connected with terrorist acts (section 101.2),

  • Possessing things connected with terrorist acts (section 101.4),

  • Collecting or making documents likely to facilitate terrorist acts (section 101.5),

  • Directing the activities of a terrorist organisation (section 102.2),

  • Being a member of a terrorist organisation (section 102.3),

  • Recruiting for a terrorist organisation (section 102.4),

  • Training involving a terrorist organisation (section 102.5),

  • Getting funds to, from or for a terrorist organisation (section 102.6),

  • Providing support to a terrorist organisation (section 102.7), and

  • Associating with terrorist organisations (section 102.8). 

A terrorist act is defined under section 100.1 as an action or threat of action involving the intention of advancing a political, religious, or ideological cause. This act must be done with the intention of coercing, or influencing by intimidation, a government or intimidating the public or a section of the public.

An action will be considered a ‘terrorist act’ where it causes:

  • serious physical harm to a person,

  • serious damage to property,

  • death or endangerment of a person’s life (other than the life of the person taking the action),

  • serious risk to health or safety of the public, or

  • serious interference, disruption or destruction to an electronic system including those related to information, telecommunication, finance, or those used for essential government services, public utility, or transport systems.

However, an action will not be considered a ‘terrorist act’ where it is advocacy, protest, dissent, or industrial action, and it is not intended to result in any of the consequences outlined above.

A terrorist organisation is defined as an organisation which is directly or indirectly engaged in preparing, planning, assisting, or fostering the doing of a terrorist act. The Government also has provided regulations which prescribe a list of terrorist organisations. 

The Government is able to list an organisation as a terrorist organisation if the Attorney-General is satisfied that it:

  • is engaged in preparing, planning, assisting, or fostering the doing of a terrorist act, or

  • advocates the doing of a terrorist act.

Organisations currently listed include Al-Qa’ida, Al-Shabaab, Hamas, Islamic State, and the National Socialist Order. 

If you are charged with being a member of a terrorist organisation, you will be found not guilty if you can show that you took all reasonable steps to cease to be a member of the organisation as soon as practicable after you had knowledge that it was a terrorist organisation.

What the prosecution needs to prove

As outlined, there are many different terrorism charges, and the elements will depend upon the charged act.

For example, to be found guilty of providing or receiving training connected with terrorist acts, the prosecution will need to prove beyond reasonable doubt that:

  • You provided or received training,

  • The training was connected with preparation or assistance with a terrorist act, 

  • You knew, or were reckless, as to whether the training was connected with a terrorist act.

A person can still be found guilty even where a terrorist act does not occur, or where the training is connected with preparation for or assistance with more than one terrorist act. 

Penalties

The following maximum penalties apply to terrorism offences:

  • Engaging in a terrorist act – life imprisonment, 

  • Providing or receiving training connected with terrorist acts – 25 years imprisonment,

  • Possessing things connected with terrorist acts – 15 years imprisonment,

  • Collecting or making documents likely to facilitate terrorist acts – 15 years imprisonment,

  • Directing the activities of a terrorist organisation – 25 years imprisonment,

  • Being a member of a terrorist organisation – 10 years imprisonment, 

  • Recruiting for a terrorist organisation – 25 years imprisonment,

  • Training involving a terrorist organisation – 25 years imprisonment,

  • Getting funds to, from or for a terrorist organisation – 25 years imprisonment,

  • Providing support to a terrorist organisation – 25 years imprisonment,

  • Associating with terrorist organisations – 3 years imprisonment. 

Defences

  • Duress or necessity 

  • False allegation

  • Mistaken identity

  • Mental illness

  • The organisation was not a terrorist organisation

Penalties

  • Committing a terrorist act – life imprisonment 

  • Being a member of a terrorist organisation – 10 years imprisonment

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