Disturbing Religious Worship

The offence of Disturbing Religious Worship is found in section 21 of the Summary Offences Act 1966 in Victoria. It is committed by a person who deliberately and without lawful excuse disturbed any meeting of persons lawfully assembled for religious worship. It also applies to assaults committed against any person lawfully officiating or assembled at such a meeting.

Have you been accused of Disturbing Religious Worship?

disturbing religious worship
Police Interview
The police will often describe the interview process as an opportunity to tell your side of the story. There are some occasions where it is okay for a person to answer questions put to them in an interview. However, most of the time it is best not to. Your answers can be used to support the charges against you. If you want to tell your side of the story, you will always be able do this later in the process.

The offence of Disturbing Religious Worship is a relatively complex offence that will depend on the Court’s interpretation of the facts. You should book an appointment with one of our lawyers before you attend an interview and we can advise you how to conduct yourself in an interview for this offence prior to the interview taking place.

Pleading Not Guilty
Our lawyers have dedicated their careers to representing people with contesting Police charges. If you decide you want to contest a charge of Disturbing Religious Worship, we can explain the type of evidence the police will need to obtain to successfully prosecute the charge and how to best go about defending it. It is a unique offence which will need careful thought.

You should call us to book an appointment with one of our lawyers so we can represent you and ensure you have the best chance at securing a not guilty verdict.

Pleading Guilty
If you choose to plead guilty to Disturbing Religious Worship, our lawyers can help you prepare a thorough plea in mitigation to ensure you get the best result possible. It is important to explain to the Court your reason for the offending so that they understand why you committed this offence. Our lawyers have experience in delicately explaining why such offending occurred.

Our lawyers will also help you prepare character references and submissions to the court, which will assist you in getting the best result possible.

Examples of Disturbing Religious Worship
  • Some people run into a Mosque during Friday prayers and begin to yell insults to the worshippers
  • Someone punches a Catholic priest during Mass
  • You did not disturb anyone
  • You did not wilfully disturb any religious worship
  • You have a lawful justification or excuse
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 that are asked in cases like this:
  • What are they saying actually happened?
  • Did you have a lawful excuse?
Maximum penalty and court that deals with this charge
The maximum penalty for the offence of Disturbing Religious Worship (s21 of the Summary Offences Act 1966) is 15 penalty units or imprisonment for three months.

Disturbing religious worship is a case that would be heard in the Magistrates’ Court.

What can you be sentenced to for this charge?
You are most likely to receive a fine if found guilty of this offence.

What is the legal definition of Disturbing Religious Worship?
Wilfully, and without lawful justification or excuse, disquieting or disturbing religious worship. Or assaulting a person lawfully officiating the religious worship.

“Did you disturb any religious worship?”

The Law
The section that covers this offence is section 21 of the Summary Offences Act 1966.