Destruction of Evidence

Destruction of Evidence is found in section 254 of the Crimes Act 1958 in Victoria. It is committed by a person who destroyed or prevented documents from being used as evidence in a legal proceeding.

Have you been accused of Destruction of Evidence? This is a serious charge and should be given priority.

Police Interview
The purpose of the interview is not to search for the truth but rather to obtain evidence that can be admitted against you in court at a trial. This evidence comes in the form of admissions. You may say things that you think innocuous or of no consequence thinking you are simply ‘telling the truth’. Your answers can be used against you in ways you wouldn’t expect. Your statements could be used to try and discredit you to a jury or show you are a liar or an inconsistent storyteller if what you say changes, even slightly, forcing you into the witness box and subject to cross-examination.

Call one of our lawyers if you are asked to attend a Police interview for advice on whether you should or should not comment in your specific situation.

We can also support you in a Police interview to ensure the process goes smoothly if you need.

Pleading Not Guilty
You can take your matter to trial if you deny an allegation of Destroying Evidence. The Prosecution will work very hard to secure a conviction. Our lawyers work just as hard to ensure that you can defend your case effectively. We have in-house trial barristers who will get involved in your case from the beginning. They are experts in running jury trials and at questioning witnesses.

In some cases we may even be able to persuade the Prosecution to drop charges before ever going to trial.

Pleading Guilty
You should only plead guilty if that is the best option for you. Our lawyers will advise you if this is the sensible approach after reviewing the brief of evidence. After speaking with Police you may think that there is no option but to please guilty and that the case is very strong.

If it in your best interests to plead guilty we know how to present your plea in mitigation to the Court in the most positive manner. We understand sentencing and know what does and does not work and can help you get the best outcome.

Which court will the case be heard in?
This is an indictable offence but it may be heard summarily. This means that it may be heard in the Magistrates’ Courts.

Examples of Destruction of Evidence
  • An employee at a company destroys documents that are likely to be required in a trial for fraud against the company
  • Someone destroys letters they received by someone else who is on trial and the letters are relevant to the trial
  • Someone marks a relevant document in a way that it is no longer decipherable
What is the legal definition of Destruction of Evidence?
Knowing a document was likely to be required in a legal proceeding, the accused destroyed the document; or rendered the document incapable of being identified. With the intention of preventing it from being used as evidence.

“Did you destroy or render illegible a document required in a legal proceeding?”

The section that covers this offence is section 254 of the Crimes Act 1958.1

Elements of the offence
For an accused to be proven guilty, the prosecution must establish the following elements beyond reasonable doubt:

  • The accused knew that a document or other thing of any kind is, or is reasonably likely to be, required in evidence in a legal proceeding; and
  • The accused destroyed or concealed it or rendered it illegible, undecipherable or incapable of identification; or
  • The accused expressly, tacitly or impliedly authorised or permitted another person to destroy or conceal it or render it illegible, undecipherable or incapable of identification and that other person did so; and
  • The accused performed the actions specified above with the intention of preventing the document or other thing of any kind from being used in evidence in a legal proceeding.
  • No documents were destroyed
  • There was no way of knowing the documents destroyed would be required in legal proceedings
There are other possible defences, depending on the circumstances surrounding the alleged offending. Each matter is unique and requires an individual approach and strategy.

Questions in cases like this
  • If any documents were destroyed, how and when were they destroyed?
  • What was the purpose for destroying the documents?
Maximum penalty for section 254 of the Crimes Act 1958
The maximum penalty for the offence of Destruction of Evidence (s254 of the Crimes Act 1958) is level 6 imprisonment (5 years) or a level 6 fine or both.

What can you be sentenced to for this charge?
In severe cases, if you are found guilty, you could serve a term of imprisonment. However if the document is not particularly significant you are more likely to face a fine or a Community Corrections Order.