Activist Rights

Offences against police

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It is an offence in Victoria to assault, resist, obstruct hinder or delay – or to encourage someone else to assault, resist, obstruct hinder or delay – a member of the police force who is performing any duty or exercising any power as a police officer, including the making of an arrest (section 51(2) Summary Offences Act 1966 (Vic) ).

  • “Resisting” means actively opposing or opposing by force.
  • “Hindering” means making a police officer’s actions more difficult to carry out.
  • “Obstruct” means preventing or making it more difficult for a police officer to carrying out their duties
  • “Delay” means to slow something down or make something take longer than normal

The maximum penalty is six months’ jail or a fine of 60 penalty units (2020-2021 -$9913.20).

It does not matter whether the resistance, hindrance, obstruction or delay actually prevents the arrest or other action.

Before an arrest

An arrest commences when the police officer makes it plain to you by words or other action that you are under arrest. It is not an offence to passively resist arrest, or to run away before an arrest has commenced. While you do not have to help a police officer arrest you, you may be charged if you make it more difficult. Although it is not common, you may be charged with one of the above for going limp or passively resisting. If this happens you should get legal advice on contesting the charge.

An unlawful arrest

It is not an offence to resist, obstruct, delay, hinder or assault (in self-defence) a police officer who is not acting legally in the performance or exercise of their duty. Police may not be acting legally when they make an illegal arrest, or use excessive force. It is also a defence to the charge of resisting if you honestly did not know that the person was a police officer. 

Assaulting or injuring an emergency worker

  • “Assault” means touching another person OR using words or actions that make the other person think you are about to forcefully touch them

An assault police charge will attract a more serious penalty than resisting or hindering.

Under the Summary Offences Act, the maximum penalty it 60 penalty units or 6 months jail.

BUT an assault, resist or obstruct police charge can also be brought under the more punitive section 30 and, for threatening injury, section 31 of the Crimes Act 1958. A finding of guilt under these provisions can attract a maximum of 5 years imprisonment.

Police are also known as ’emergency workers’. ‘Emergency worker’ includes police, PSOs, SES staff, fire fighters, ambulance workers and staff in hospital emergency departments.

Some more serious assault offences against emergency workers or custodial officers (prison staff) are category one offences. This means that, if found guilty, the court must sentence a person to time in jail and that longer minimum mandatory jail times must be imposed.

For offences against emergency workers the minimum jail times that the courts must give (if the person is found guilty) are:

  • Causing injury (section 16 of the CA) 6 months
  • Causing serious injury recklessly (section 17 of the CA) 2 years;
  • Causing serious injury intentionally (section 16 of the CA) 3 years; and
  • Causing serious injury intentionally or recklessly in circumstances of gross violence (section 15B of the CA) 5 years.
  • Exposing an emergency worker to risk by driving and that emergency worker is injured, minimum non-parole period 2 years

It is a Commonwealth offence to intentionally cause harm to an Australian Federal Police officer (section 147.1 Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth)). If this offence is tried in the Magistrates’ court, the maximum penalty is 2 years imprisonment. In the higher courts, the maximum penalty is 13 years. It is also an offence to threaten to cause serious harm or harm and the maximum penalties are 9 years and 2 years respectively (section 147.2 Criminal Code 1995 (Cth).

It is also a Commonwealth offence to obstruct, hinder, intimidate or resist an Australian Federal Police officer. The maximum penalty is 2 years imprisonment (section 149.1 Criminal Code 1995 (Cth)).

It is also an offence for someone to obstruct, assault, threaten or abuse an authorised officer in the performance of their functions (or encourage someone else to do so) under the National Parks Act 1975 (Vic) (s.45(1)).