Under criminal law, consorting refers to the act of associating with an offender through any means be it electronic or other form of communication. In NSW, the state reintroduced consorting offence as an offence only in 2012, before which it was disused.
The definition of consorting is as follows. It is the act of habitually associating (through electronic means or other means) with someone who is a convicted offender. For instance, it can include regularly meeting up persons who are gang members. Moreover, it can include being professionally associated with persons who are fraud offenders or repeat offenders.
Section 93X of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) states that a person who is found guilty of habitually consorting that occurs can be sentenced to three years prison time or face huge fines amounting to $16,500.
Police can give an official warning either orally or in writing. When given an official warning, the person is made aware that they are consorting with a convicted offender, or are associated with organised crime, and that continuing to do so will be a criminal offence.
Consorting Legislation in NSW
The Crimes Act 1900 of NSW states the following points that constitute the legislation in relation to this offence:
- A person who: –
- Habitually consorts with convicted offenders, and
- Continues to do so even though they have received an official warning from the police informing them about the offenders and their offences that make them guilty
Moreover, it states that there is no ‘habitual consorting’ with offenders unless the person either: –
- consorts with at least 2 offenders either in the same or separate occasions, and
- they commit the offence of consorting with each of those 2 offenders on at least 2 occasions
Lastly, it states that an ‘official warning’ given by a police officer is a warning given either orally or in writing that informs the person that a convicted offender is, in fact, a convicted offender.
Moreover, as mentioned above the warning states that it is a criminal offence (according to Section 93X of the Crimes Act 1900) to associate with convicted offenders.
Are There Any Defences?
According to Section 93Y of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) there are certain defences available to defendants who have been accused of consorting.
Yes, because it may be that in some circumstances, you simply cannot avoid associating with persons who are convicted offenders. The Crimes Act 1900 also sets out a legislated defence to consorting.
The Section mentions that the forms of consorting given below can be disregarded. However, the defendant must prove to the court that it was reasonable to associate with the convicted offender in the following circumstances:
- Associating with family members who are convicted offenders
Other circumstances include if consorting occurs:
- in the course of the provision of a health service or welfare service. Health services include medical services, psychological, hospital, dental, community health or environmental health service. Welfare services include rental assistance, employment benefits, or any other kind of financial or family support.
- in the course of training or education,
- during provision of legal advice or in lawful custody (such as a criminal’s lawyer etc)
- during the course of complying with a court order
- in the course of lawful employment or the lawful operation of a business
- in the course of complying with an order granted by Parole Authority, or a case plan, recommendation or direction by member of staff of Corrective Services NSW
Frequently Asked Questions Related to Consorting in NSW
Q1. Will the police inform me and specifically state that I am ‘consorting’?
A: Not necessarily, but the police will inform you that you are associating with a convicted offender. If you continue doing so, then you may be committing an offence.
Q2. Am I guilty of ‘consorting’ even if I have never committed any criminal offence?
A: Yes you can be guilty of this as this offence is related to “associating” with a convicted offender.
Q3. What is the meaning of “convicted offender”?
A: This includes persons who are convicted of an indictable offence. This can also include interstate offences that would be considered an indictable offence in NSW. Read more about this here.
Importance of Seeking Legal Advice
At JB Solicitors, we have a team of criminal lawyers with a wealth of experience in dealing with a variety of legal matters under criminal law. If you have more enquiries about any laws in NSW, or other states, do not hesitate to contact our team of solicitors.
If you wish to read other blogs on criminal law covering topics such as indictable offences, false accusations and misappropriation, click here.
For more information on criminal law or consorting laws, do not hesitate to contact our team of friendly and experienced lawyers.