summary offences act

Topics: Criminal law, Mistake of law, Mistake Pages: 2 (584 words) Published: July 30, 2014
Summary Offences Act

Reasonable Excuse
Throughout the SOA there are recurring concepts of “reasonable excuse” and lawful excuse. A reasonable excuse is not a lawful excuse (Minkley v Monroe, 1986). A “reasonable excuse involves both subjective and objective considerations, but these considerations must be related to the immediate prevailing circumstances in which the offensive words, etc, are used, just as in self defence or provocation the response of the accused must be related in some way to the actions of the victim and the particular circumstances.” In this case the defendant was watching emotive videos about black deaths in police custody. He then saw police several hours later and swore at them, eventually being arrested for offensive language. In the particular facts of the case the defendant’s excuse for his behaviour (i.e. watching emotive videos, perceived injustice, intoxication etc.) were not “related to the immediate prevailing circumstances in which the offensive words” were used. (Connors v Craigie, 1994) A bona-fide mistake of fact or law based on reasonable grounds may amount to a reasonable excuse (Featherstone v Fraser). Note the recent High Court of Australia decision of Ostrowski v Palmer (2004) in which it was held that, for a strict liability offence, a mistake of law will not be an excuse to a crime. The case involves a commercial fisherman who set up rock lobster pots within prohibited fishing areas. He made enquiries with Fisheries WA, who eventually gave him the regulations. The restricted area was not included in these regulations. It was held, “It is no defence to a criminal charge that the defendant believed that his or her actions were not regulated by law or that his or her actions satisfied the provisions of a law. Such beliefs are mistakes of law, not mistakes of fact.

Lawful purpose
In the case of Taikato v The Queen (1996) it was held that, “lawful purpose should be read as a purpose that is authorised…by law.”...
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