Have you been accused or been a victim of a nuisance crime in Queensland?
If so, there is an action you can take and rights you hold, protected by Queensland laws.
If you are found guilty of a nuisance offence, serious penalties and recordings on your criminal record may apply, so it is important that you are well informed!
What the Law Says about Nuisance in Queensland
According to the Summary Offences Act 2005, public nuisance includes:
A person must not commit a public nuisance offence. Maximum penalty—10 penalty units or 6 months imprisonment.
A person commits a public nuisance offence if—
the person behaves in – a disorderly way; or an offensive way; or a threatening way; or a violent way; and
the person’s behaviour interferes, or is likely to interfere, with the peaceful passage through, or enjoyment of, a public place by a member of the public.
Without limiting subsection (2)—
a) a person behaves in an offensive way if the person uses offensive, obscene, indecent, or abusive language; and
b) a person behaves in a threatening way if the person uses threatening language
This is what the law says about crime, but what are the possible defences to the crime of nuisance in Queensland?
Possible Defences to Nuisance
If accused of either public nuisance by an authority, you will be tried in a court of law (likely a magistrate’s court) in accordance with your rights as an Australian citizen.
In this trial, you will have the opportunity to present various defences to either decrease your penalty or be found completely not guilty.
There are various defences you or your lawyer can present to defend yourself, such as:
- Reasonable prediction: If your behaviour could not be predicted to be of nuisance to others by a reasonable human being, you will not be found guilty of the crime.
- Consent of the other party: If the individual who accused you of the crime had previously given you consent to undertake whatever behaviour they claim to be a nuisance, you will not be found guilty. This defence will, in most circumstances, only apply in cases of private nuisance.
- Statutory Authority: If your behaviour was undertaken in accordance or in protection with an established law that allows authority for the action, you will not be found guilty of the nuisance.
Public Nuisance in Queensland
The offence of public nuisance is established in Queensland by the Summary Offences Act 2005 and is defined, as mentioned above, as a person behaving in a disorderly, offensive, threatening, or violent way.
In order to be an offence, however, this behaviour must interrupt, or be reasonably likely to interrupt, the enjoyment or peace of a public space.
This means that to be found guilty of this offence, it is not necessary that an expression of discomfort or unenjoyment by a member of the public is made; your behaviours simply have to be potentially or be likely to cause a lack of enjoyment of said public space.
As mentioned in the above section regarding the statement of the law, the maximum sentence if found guilty of this crime may receive a maximum of 10 penalty units or 6 months imprisonment, of course depending on the nature of your crime and your criminal record.
Some examples of public nuisance may include:
- Yelling or screaming while intoxicated in public;
- Possessing a knife in a public area without reasonable justification;
- Obstructing a public way without a reasonable excuse;
- Nude sunbathing in a public space.
Private Nuisance in Queensland
A private nuisance is an unlawful interference with an individual’s right to feel safe and comfortable within their own private property.
A private nuisance can be defined as several different behaviours or actions and in several different forms.
A private nuisance may include:
- Odour or smell
- Tampering with a shared wall, fence, or another property separator
- Damaging trees
- Activity that incites fear or anxiety
- Obstruction of light
- Obstruction of water supply
- Obstruction of the right of way
There is a criterion, however, if the behaviour above has occurred to be considered a private nuisance.
The action has to be considered unreasonable and cause actual discomfort, harm, annoyance, or other obstructive emotion.
If a nuisance is alerted to the police, they have the power and responsibility to briefly investigate the circumstances and, if necessary/possible, enforce the removal of the issue.
Mediation & ADR
If your matter falls into the category of neighbourhood dispute, you may want to undertake mediation to solve the issue without the use of a court.
Mediation is the process of employing the assistance of a trained mediator to assist with a civilised conversation about the issue at hand to allow all parties to say what they wish and for the matter to be solved in a manner that suits all involved.
The purpose of mediation is to diffuse tension and identify solutions to the issue that do not result in neighbourhood tension and, therefore, further issues down the road.
In mediation, all parties attend sessions with a mediator, who assists by triggering conversation and ensuring communication is kept civil and productive.
An agreement made in mediation is not legally binding, meaning parties may back out or change their minds on decisions down the road.
They can, however, be made legal matters if all parties decide they wish to take part and that it is an appropriate step moving forward for their matter.
If decide upon, the documents to make it legally binding can be produced by a solicitor.
Key Takeaways for Nuisance in Queensland
The offence of nuisance can be of serious consequence, both to the offender and the victim, so it is vital that you are aware of your rights and responsibilities in the matter.
It is advised, as always, that if you are accused of this crime, you employ the assistance of a lawyer as they will likely know your rights and options much better than you.
They may also represent you in court and provide adequate, well-researched defences presented in appropriate language that may greatly assist your case.