Crimes Act 1900
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Crimes Act 1900
Crimes Act 1900
Coat of Arms of New South Wales.svg
Parliament of New South Wales
CitationCrimes Act 1900 No 40 (NSW)
Royal assent31 October 1900
Administered byDepartment of Attorney General and Justice
Status: Unknown

The Crimes Act 1900,[1] is a New South Wales statute that sets out the majority of criminal offences for the state of New South Wales in Australia. Along with the Crimes Act 1914,[2] and the Federal Criminal Code Act 1995 (both federal),[3] these two pieces of legislation form the majority of criminal law for New South Wales.

As it is the major criminal law statute for New South Wales, it is an extensive legal document of 582 different sections,[1] which define an extensive list of offences under New South Wales law.

The same original NSW act forms the basis for the Crimes Act 1900 (Australian Capital Territory) which has 444 different sections as of 1 September 2016.[4]

Murder law

For a person to be guilty of murder in NSW , the prosecution must prove both actus reus (literally guilty act) and mens rea (literally guilty mind).[5] The act must cause the death of a person without lawful excuse - A causes B's death. It was previously a requirement that death occur within a year and a day after the date on which the person received the injury, however that has been abolished in NSW.[6]

The guilty mind may be one of three different states of mind, an intent to kill, intent to commit grievous bodily harm and reckless indifference to human life.[5] If A intended to kill B, whether it was premeditated or on the spur of the moment, A is guilty of murder. Similarly if A intended to kill B but killed C, A is guilty of murder. The culpability of the person does not depend on whether the person intended to kill or was recklessly indifferent.[7]

Under NSW law is also guilty of murder if the act causing death was done with the intent to cause grievous bodily harm. Grievous bodily harm includes any permanent or serious disfiguring, death of a foetus or causing a person to contract a grievous bodily disease.[8] If A intentionally inflicts grievous bodily harm on B and B dies, then A is guilty of B's murder.

The more difficult concept for culpability is "reckless indifference to human life".[7] The accused must be aware of the probability (as opposed to possibility),[7] of the accused's act resulting in a person's death (as opposed to merely resulting in grievous bodily harm).[9][10] That is A saw that his actions carried a probability of B's death. Douglas Crabbe was convicted of murder when he drove a truck into a pub in which he knew it was highly likely that people would be killed.[11] In R v Faure the Victorian Court of Appeal described "probable" as meaning "a substantial, or real and not remote, chance, whether or not it is more than 50 per cent".[12] Similarly, it was held in Darkan v R, that "probable must be distinguished from merely possible".[13]

As long as one of these above mental states is present, and given that the test of causation is satisfied, the intended method of death becomes irrelevant.[9] For example, in Royall, an intention to kill or inflict grievous bodily harm on the victim with an ashtray could be directly linked to her decision, due to a well-founded apprehension of physical harm, to jump out of a window to her death (the actus reus).[9]

The final level is constructive murder (also termed felony murder) in which A kills B (even if unintentionally - the only question that can be raised is whether the act was voluntary or not.[14] during, or immediately after, the commission of a crime.[15]

The maximum penalty for murder is life imprisonment.[16] The Court will use discretion in determining the sentence and will only impose life imprisonment if "the level of culpability in the commission of the offence is so extreme" and it is in the interest of "retribution, punishment, community protection and deterrence".[17] Life imprisonment means imprisonment for "natural life".[16] Section 19B mandates a sentence of life imprisonment (subject to some exceptions) if the victim is a police officer killed in the execution of his or her duty, or in retaliation for past execution of duty, and the accused knew, or ought reasonably to have known, the victim was a police officer and intended to kill the police officer.[18]

Manslaughter law

Where the prosecution cannot establish the necessary actus reas and mens rea elements of murder beyond reasonable doubt, the accused may be convicted of manslaughter.[5]Manslaughter carries a maximum sentence of 25 years imprisonment.[19]

Publicly threatening and inciting violence law

In June 2018, both houses of the Parliament of New South Wales unanimously passed and the Governor of New South Wales signed an urgent bill without amendments called the Crimes Amendment (Publicly Threatening and Inciting Violence) Bill 2018[20] to repeal the vilification laws within the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 and replace it with criminal legislation with up to an explicit 3 year term of imprisonment within this Act.[21][22] The legislation went into effect on August 13, 2018 - by proclamation on August 10, 2018.[23]

Other provisions

Division 3 of the Act covers attempts to murder,[24] while Division 5 relates to attempting or aiding suicide.[25]

Punishment for crimes deemed as 'common assault' is set out in Division 9.[26] Aggravated assault includes assault with further specific intent,[27] assault causing particular injuries (actual bodily harm,[28] and grievous bodily harm [29], assault with offensive weapons or dangerous substances [30] ("offensive weapon or instrument" is defined in s 4 of the Crimes Act [8]) and assaults on victims of special status,[31] such as:

  • a child at the time of birth;[32]
  • a child under the age of 7;[33]
  • wives, apprentices, servants and insane people;[34]
  • clergy engaged in their duties;[35]
  • persons endeavouring to preserve a vessel in distress;[36]
  • a member of the crew of an aircraft or vessel whilst on board.[37]

After the death of Thomas Kelly in 2012, NSW Parliament introduced the "one-punch-law". This law mandates a minimum sentence of 8 years to the maximum sentence of 25 years for assault causing death in intoxicated (alcohol/drug) conditions. and maximum sentence of 20 years for assault causing death without intoxicated conditions. There is also no requirement to prove the assailant knew the punch would be fatal.[38]

The criminal offence of sexual assault is located in Division 10, which includes the definition of "sexual intercourse";[39] consent in relation to sexual assault offences;[40] the elements of the offence of sexual assault;[41] aggravated sexual assault;[42] aggravated sexual assault in company;[43] and assault with intent to have intercourse;[44]

See also


  1. ^ a b Crimes Act 1900 No 40 (NSW).
  2. ^ Crimes Act 1914 (Cth).
  3. ^ Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth).
  4. ^ Crimes Act 1900 (ACT).
  5. ^ a b c Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) s 18 Murder and manslaughter defined.
  6. ^ Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) s 17A Date of death.
  7. ^ a b c d R v Crabbe [1985] HCA 22, (1985) 156 CLR 464 (26 March 1985), High Court.
  8. ^ a b Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) s 4 Definitions.
  9. ^ a b c Royall v R [1991] HCA 27, (1991) 172 CLR 378 (25 June 1991), High Court.
  10. ^ Campbell v R [2014] NSWCCA 175 (2 September 2014), Court of Criminal Appeal (NSW).
  11. ^ Crabbe's original conviction was set aside because the judge erred in summing up to the jury of what was meant by reckless indifference.[7] Crabbe was convicted of 5 counts of murder at a second trial and sentenced to life imprisonment :R v Crabbe [2004] NTSC 63, Supreme Court (NT).
  12. ^ R v Faure [1999] VSCA 166 (24 September 1999), Court of Appeal (Vic).
  13. ^ Darkan v R [206] HCA 34, (2006) 227 CLR 373 (22 June 2006), High Court.
  14. ^ Ryan v R [1967] HCA 2, (1967) 121 CLR 205 (3 March 1967), High Court.
  15. ^ Hudd v R [2013] NSWCCA 57 (15 March 2013), Court of Criminal Appeal (NSW).
  16. ^ a b Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) s 19A Punishment for murder.
  17. ^ Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act (NSW) s 61 Mandatory life sentences for certain offences.
  18. ^ Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) s 19B Mandatory life sentences for murder of police officers.
  19. ^ Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) s 24 Manslaughter--punishment.
  20. ^ [1]
  21. ^ [2]
  22. ^ [3]
  23. ^ [4]
  24. ^ Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) s 27 Acts done to the person with intent to murder.
  25. ^ Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) s 31A Suicide and attempt to commit suicide; and 31C (NSW) Aiding etc suicide.
  26. ^ Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) s 61 Common assault prosecuted by indictment.
  27. ^ Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) s 58 Assault with intent to commit a serious indictable offence on certain officers.
  28. ^ Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) s 59 Assault occasioning actual bodily harm.
  29. ^ Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) s 54 Causing grievous bodily harm.
  30. ^ Brown et al, Criminal Laws: Materials and Commentary on Criminal Law and Process in New South Wales, (5th edition, Federation Press, 2011), p670-1
  31. ^ Brown et al, Criminal Laws: Materials and Commentary on Criminal Law and Process in New South Wales, (5th edition, Federation Press, 2011), p672-6
  32. ^ Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) s 42 Injuries to child at time of birth.
  33. ^ Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) s 43 Abandoning or exposing a child under 7 years.
  34. ^ Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) s 44 Failure of persons to provide necessities of life.
  35. ^ Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) s 56 Obstructing member of the clergy in discharge of his or her duties.
  36. ^ Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) s 57 Assault on persons preserving wreck.
  37. ^ Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) s 206 Assault etc on member of crew of aircraft or vessel.
  38. ^ Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) s 25A Assault causing death.
  39. ^ Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) s 61H Definition of "sexual intercourse" and other terms.
  40. ^ Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) s 61HA Consent in relation to sexual assault offences.
  41. ^ Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) s 61I Sexual assault.
  42. ^ Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) s 61J Aggravated sexual assault.
  43. ^ Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) s 61JA Aggravated sexual assault in company.
  44. ^ Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) s 61K Assault with intent to have sexual intercourse.

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