Reckless Conduct Endangering Serious Injury

– section 23 of the Crimes Act 1958

Person Hit By a CarReckless conduct endangering serious injury is a serious offence. Often it will arise out of a driving incident where the conduct is such that it is believed to have placed people in danger.Serious Injury is defined as an injury that endangers life or is substantial in its magnitude. An injury can also be described as serious if there are many injuries that when combined create a serious injury.

Examples of Reckless Conduct Endangering Serious Injury
  • During a bar fight somebody throws a glass in the air knowing it would likely hit somebody.
  • During a road rage incident person A jumps onto the hood of a car. Person B is inside the car and begins driving at speed reckless as to whether serious injury occurs to person A.
  • After a disagreement in a bar, person A leaves and gets into their car. Person B is with a group of friends. Person A then drives their car in the direction of Person B. Person A wanted to scare person B but loses control and crashes into person B.

Our client was a young man in his early 20s. He was driving home with a passenger in the car after having been out with his friends. At around 3:30 AM, the client went to make a turn into an intersection but misjudged the distance, and accidentally veered into a wrong lane and into oncoming traffic. A police car observed him doing this and had to take evasive action to avoid colliding with the vehicle. The client tried to exit the road as quickly as possible and, in so doing, lost control of the vehicle and collided with a brick fence. He was charged with reckless conduct endangering serous injury but we were able to have the charge withdrawn.

Questions in cases like this
  • Were you responsible for the conduct alleged?
  • Did you place anyone in dangerous of serious injury?
  • Did you have a legitimate reason for you conduct?
What are some of the possible defences to Reckless Conduct Endangering Serious Injury?

Defences to this can often be a factual dispute, a lack of intent, mental impairment, necessity, absence of recklessness, or self defence.

Deciding on whether to plead guilty or not to this charge has important implications for you and should be made after proper discussions with a criminal lawyer.

Maximum penalty and court that deals with this charge

A person found guilty of this offence may be sentenced to a maximum penalty of 5 years imprisonment. This would typically be heard in the Magistrates' Court but could be heard in a higher court depending on the circumstances.

What is the legal definition of Reckless Conduct Endangering Serious Injury?

Conduct endangering persons
A person who, without lawful excuse, recklessly engages in conduct that places or may place another person in danger of serious injury is guilty of an indictable offence.

Penalty: Level 6 imprisonment (5 years maximum).

"Are you accused of recklessly causing serious injury?"

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Legislation

The legislation for this offence can be found on section 23 of Crimes Act 1958.

Elements of the offence

In essence, the Prosecution must show that the accused voluntarily engaged in a conduct which placed a person in danger of serious injury, and that the accused engaged in that conduct recklessly in that the accused foresaw, as a reasonable person would foresee, the conduct as placing another person in danger of serious injury.

Sentencing in the higher courts

The Victorian higher courts heard 57 cases (176 charges) of Reckless Conduct Endangering Person - section 23 from 1 July 2011 to 30 June 2016. These cases resulted in the following penalties:

  • Imprisonment - 52.6%
  • Partially Suspended Sentence - 10.5%
  • Wholly Suspended Sentence - 14%
  • Community Correction Order - 17.5%
  • Community-Based Order - 1.8%
  • Fine - 3.5%

The longest prison term imposed was between 5 and 6 years and was applied in 3.3% of the cases that led to imprisonment. The majority however were sentenced to a term that was between 1 and 2 years.1

Please note that suspended sentences were abolished in the higher courts earlier than that of the Magistrates’ Court, and therefore all offences committed on or after 1 September 2013 will not have this available as a sentencing option.2

Sentencing in the Magistrates’ Courts

In the Magistrates' Courts, 1,442 cases (1,626 charges) of Reckless Conduct Endangering Person - section 23 were heard from 1 July 2013 to 30 June 2016. These resulted in the following sentences:

  • Imprisonment - 35.6%
  • Community Correction Order - 33.2%
  • Fine - 14.4%
  • Wholly Suspended Sentence - 7.0%
  • Adjourned Undertaking/Discharge/Dismissal - 4.9%
  • Partially Suspended Sentence - 2.3%
  • Youth Justice Centre Order - 2.0%
  • Other - 0.6%

ImprisonmentThe longest prison term imposed was 36+ months but was least imposed at only 1.6% of the charges that resulted in imprisonment. The majority were sentenced to a term that was between 3 and 6 months (23.7%).

For the fines, the highest amount imposed was somewhere between $5,000 and $10,000 and this was applied in 3.9% of the charges that led to aggregate fines and in 1.3% of the charges that led to non-aggregate fines. Most of those who were fined fell under the "$1,000 < $2,000" category (25.6% for aggregate and 12.8% for non-aggregate).3

Please note that suspended sentences were abolished in Victoria for all offences committed on or after 1 September 2014.4

Other important resources
Media information
Case studies related to Reckless Conduct Endangering Serious Injury

 



[1] SACStat Higher Courts - Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) : s 23 - reckless conduct endangering person < https://www.sentencingcouncil.vic.gov.au/sacstat/higher_courts/HC_6231_23.html >
[2] Suspended Sentence | The Sentencing Advisory Council < https://www.sentencingcouncil.vic.gov.au/about-sentencing/sentencing-options-for-adults/suspended-sentence >
[3] SAC Statistics - Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) : s 23 - reckless conduct endangering person < https://www.sentencingcouncil.vic.gov.au/sacstat/magistrates_court/6231_23.html >
[4] Suspended Sentence | The Sentencing Advisory Council < https://www.sentencingcouncil.vic.gov.au/about-sentencing/sentencing-options-for-adults/suspended-sentence >