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The offence of public mischief in NSW

The offence of public mischief in NSW

A professor at the University of Technology, Sydney is facing court for allegedly making a complaint to police that she was the victim of harassing letters, when she actually sent the letters to herself.

Police arrested and charged UTS professor Dianne Jolley in November last year, after a lengthy police investigation concluded that she sent harassing letters to herself after the university planned to cancel a Chinese Medicine Course.

Police say the investigation wasted their resources and also those of key employees at the university.

Court documents suggest the university spent more than $150,000 in security measures over the course of several months to ensure Ms Jolley’s safety, due to her claims that she was in physical danger.

Ms Jolley is currently on paid leave from her role as The Dean of Science and Technology.

But, despite her arrest, the letters have continued. In recent weeks, 9 additional threatening letters arrived at the UTS, resulting in further charges being laid against the professor.

The charges against Ms Jolley include fraud, giving false information that a person or property is in danger and public mischief.

Her bail has been revoked and she will appear in court later this month.

The offence of fraud

Section 192E of the Crimes Act 1900 makes it a crime to obtain property belonging to another, or obtain any financial advantage or cause a financial disadvantage to another, where this is done dishonestly by any deception.

The maximum penalty is 10 years’ imprisonment when the matter is referred to the District Court, or 2 years if it remains in the Local Court.

To establish the offence, the prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt that:

  • The defendant engaged in a deception,
  • The defendant’s actions were dishonest,
  • The actions created a financial advantage over another person’s property, or caused the other person to suffer a financial disadvantage, and
  • The actions were intentional or reckless.
Defences to the charge include duress and necessity.

The offence of falsely conveying that a person or property is in danger

Section 93Q of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) makes it an offence punishable by a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison where the matter is finalised in the District Court, or 2 years if it remains in the Local Court, for a person to convey information that he or she knows to be false or misleading, and is likely to make the person to whom the information is conveyed fear for the safety of a person or of property, or both.

The offence encompasses conveying information by any means including making a statement, sending a document, or transmitting an electronic or other message.

The offence of public mischief

Public mischief is an offence under section 547B of the Crimes Act 1900 which carries a maximum penalty of 12 months in prison.

To establish the offence, the prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt that:

  1. The defendant knowingly made a false representation that an act had been done, or would been done, or that an event had occurred,
  2. The representation was made to a police officer, and
  3. The representation called for an investigation by the police officer
The offence covers situations where:

  • The representation was made to a person other than a police officer,
  • The nature of the representation reasonably required the person to communicate it to a police officer, and the person did communicate it to a police officer.
Written by Sonia hickey and Ugur Nedim. Republished with permission of Sydney Criminal Lawyers.