Scams already run rampant around the world and cover a range of situations where scammers entice people to invest in wealth opportunities, take advantage using false pretences, or security threats at large scales within or between organisations. In the Australian Capital Territory, the law recognises such acts of deceit as fraud. It is typically a criminal offence in Canberra that may vary in terms of scale but can usually involve large sums of money.

Fraud in the Australian Capital Territory exists under Part 3.3 of the Criminal Code 2002. This part of the Code covers various fraud-based offences, which include but are not limited to obtaining property through deceit under section 326, general dishonesty under section 333, obtaining financial advantage by deception under section 32, and conspiracy to defraud under section 334.

If you find yourself dealing with fraud charges, it is crucial that you learn more about the laws that surround the offence. It includes covering the range of situations that generally come under fraud in the Australian Capital Territory.

Obtaining property through deceit

This offence involves an individual or organisation attempting to obtain or take over somebody else’s property through dishonest means. The intentions usually involve permanently depriving the owners of the property through deceit. In the case of conviction, the maximum individual penalty for obtaining property by deception is ten years imprisonment, along with a fine of 1000 penalty units.

The offence of dishonestly gaining another individual’s property or belonging to take over their ownership, possession or control over the property is a criminal offence. It also includes situations with the involvement of a third party.

However, in such an offence, the intention behind obtaining the property is crucial. If you have no intention of giving back the property to the rightful owner after you obtained it illegally, then the Court will establish that your intention involved permanently depriving the owner of the property. Moreover, this can also happen even if you intend to return the property eventually, but in the meantime, take over the property as your own, either by renting it to a third party or using the property in any other way.

In relation to money, there are strict rules that apply. If you transfer money from another individual’s bank account to your own through illegal means, then you will have taken the money with the intention of depriving the individual of it. It is also a criminal offence under this section because you dishonestly cause a loss to another individual. In case of conviction, the maximum penalty for this offence is a fine of 500 penalty points or five years imprisonment.

Deception under Australian jurisdiction

The final and crucial requirement for a fraud charge of obtaining property through deception is understanding deception in legal terms. It involves a situation where a person uses unlawful means to dishonestly obtain the property in question. The individual will either deceive another person intentionally or unintentionally, using words or conduct.

It can also include deceiving another person about your original intentions. One can use an electronic device to convince another person into doing something that they’re not authorised to do. An example includes using another person’s password to access their computer and personal information.

Financial Advantage through deception

fraud canberraObtaining financial advantage runs along the same concept of obtaining property through deception. Hence, the same maximum penalty also applies to this offence.

The Court will find an individual guilty if they obtain a financial advantage over someone else through unlawful means. The requirements set out for this offence are the same as obtaining property by deception, with an intention to permanently deprive the other person of their rights.

However, the meaning of financial advantage is not set out in the legislation. Section 363A only offers information about permanent or temporary financial advantages where the words “financial advantage” have their ordinary meaning.

General Dishonesty

The offence of general dishonesty exists under section 333 of the Criminal Code 2002 (ACT) and applies in cases only where the victim of the offence resides in the ACT. 

Also Read: Strict Liability & Absolute Liability Offences – Criminal Law

Absolute liability may apply to the location of the victim and not the person criminally responsible for the offence. It implies that if the victim is an ACT government body, then the Court confirms the commission of the offence even if the offender was unaware that their victim was a government body.

The maximum individual penalty for general dishonesty is five years imprisonment or a fine of 500 penalty units. 

The AFP has primary law enforcement responsibility for investigating minor and serious fraud and corruption against innocent citizens. Moreover, the AFP is also seeking to address global fraud and relevant issues through bolstering efforts to prevent, detect, investigate, and punish such multi-dimensional offences through enhanced intelligence, inter-agency liaison, as well as investigator training.

Choice of charge

There is indeed a considerable overlap between the general dishonesty offences and the offences of obtaining either property or taking financial advantage through deceit. It implies that the latter will constitute one or more offences of general dishonesty. Hence, it is appropriate that individuals filing the case receive guidance as to whether obtaining an offence or an offence of general dishonesty is applicable where both offences can be seen in the evidence.

When the alleged conduct constitutes as both offences, the appropriate course of action will be to charge the relevant obtaining offence rather than an offence of general dishonesty. However, in some cases, the offence of general dishonesty may be more appropriate with reference to the available evidence that supports the offence. An example includes a fraudulent scheme consisting of numerous yet individual instances of obtaining property through deception.

If looking at the instances individually, they may seem minor. However, combined together, it amounts to serious fraud. Hence, in such cases, it may not be possible to proceed with a defence on the charges which entirely reflect the criminality seen in the evidence. On the other hand, if the prosecution were to proceed with the case and deal with the representative charges, the likely penalty in the convictions may be inadequate. 

Hence, in such cases, it can be appropriate to proceed with the offence of general dishonesty instead. It will provide the maximum penalty of 5 years imprisonment and offer the Court an appropriate basis for the sentence.

Fraud by false representation

There are various actions that may amount to fraud by false representation. It includes false statements that one can use for their advantage or cause loss to another individual. Many examples include exaggerating your income on a mortgage application form, selling assets that you don’t own, falsifying details to obtain a credit card, or claiming costs that never existed.

Many individuals don’t realise they’re under investigation for fraud by false representation until they’re invited for a police interview. In such cases, it is best to take a lawyer with you who can analyse the situation and offer exceptional legal guidance, which is necessary during these circumstances. 

In the interview, the police may ask about your activity, or relevant events associated with the case. While they are direct questions, some may be difficult to answer, even if you’re innocent and have nothing to hide. Hence, a fraud solicitor can guide you through the police interviews, ensuring that you don’t accidentally damage your case further.

Fraud solicitors typically defend allegations of fraud by false representation. If you are criminally responsible for the fraud or framed for the offence, you must inform your lawyer honestly. In such cases, it is crucial that your lawyer highlights these errors as soon as possible when they represent you in court. However, it can be a long and tedious process involving multiple events that may impact your day-to-day life.

When you are criminally responsible for such an offence, the authorities may freeze your assets until the investigation is complete, which may take months. While a fraud solicitor may apply to the court to speed up the process and alleviate your legal pressure, there will still be a significant impact on other aspects of your life, such as employment.

Talk to a United Legal lawyer today

In cases of fraud, it can be tricky to recover lost property or belongings. Moreover, an experience like this can be very traumatic financially and emotionally for you and your family. Hence, legal guidance is crucial to navigating the complexities of your case and fighting for your legal rights. 

At United legal, we have a team of highly experienced lawyers working with clients on a no-win-no-fee basis, to ensure that financial limitations never come in the way of justice and compensation. We take over your legal burden, and help simplify the process for you.

If you are a victim of fraud, please contact one of our lawyers today. We offer all our clients a detailed consultation to discuss the intricacies of your case and offer exceptional legal advice. Moreover, we help you collect relevant legal documents and evidence to further support your case as we represent you in Court.

United Legal

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For our legal support services Contact us at (02) 6295 2283

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