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Suppression of Documents

This charge is laid when a person dishonestly, with a view for their own gain or another person’s loss:

  • Destroys, defaces or conceals any valuable security or important document, such as a will; or
  • By deception procures the execution of any valuable security.
Man in a Meeting
This offence is an indictable offence triable summarily.1 This means it may be heard in either the Magistrates’ Court or the County Court.


[1] Criminal Procedure Act 2009 (Vic) s 28(1)(b)(iii)
 
What is the legal definition of Suppression of Documents?
  1. A person who dishonestly, with a view to gain for himself or another or with intent to cause loss to another, destroys, defaces or conceals any valuable security, any will or other testamentary document or any original document of or belonging to, or filed or deposited in, any court of justice or any government department is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to level 5 imprisonment (10 years maximum).
  2. A person who dishonestly, with a view to gain for himself or another or with intent to cause loss to another, by any deception procures the execution of a valuable security is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to level 5 imprisonment (10 years maximum) and this subsection shall apply in relation to the making, acceptance, indorsement, alteration, cancellation or destruction in whole or in part of a valuable security, and in relation to the signing or sealing of any paper or other material in order that it may be made or converted into, or used or dealt with as, a valuable security, as if that were the execution of a valuable security.
  3. For purposes of this section “deception” has the same meaning as in section 81, and “valuable security” means any document creating, transferring, surrendering or releasing any right to, in or over property, or authorising the payment of money or delivery of any property, or evidencing the creation, transfer, surrender or release of any such right, or the payment of money or delivery of any property, or the satisfaction of any obligation.
Examples of Suppression of Documents
  • A person deliberately defaces their parents’ will so that they will get a greater proportion of their inheritance than they otherwise would have.
  • A person dishonestly organises the execution of a property transfer document that transfers the property into their name at the expense of the original owner.
  • A person dishonestly executes a document evidencing the satisfaction of a debt obligation over a property when in fact that debt has not been paid.
Legislation
The relevant legislative provision for this offence is section 86 of Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) (the Act).

Elements of the offence
For a person to be found guilty of this offence, the prosecution must prove the following elements beyond reasonable doubt:

  1. The accused destroyed, defaced or concealed a relevant document or by deception procured the execution of a valuable security; and
  2. The accused acted dishonestly, with a view to gain for themselves or intending to cause loss to another person.
Element 1: The accused destroyed, defaced or concealed a relevant document or by deception procured the execution of a valuable security.
To satisfy the first element of the offence, the prosecution must prove that an accused destroyed, defaced or concealed a relevant document2 or by deception procured the execution or a valuable security.3

A ‘relevant document’ is any valuable security, any will or other testamentary document or any original document of or belonging to, or filed or deposited in, any court of justice or any government department.4

A ‘valuable security’ means any document creating, transferring, surrendering or releasing any right to, in or over property, or authorising the payment of money or delivery of any property, or evidencing the creating, transfer, surrender or release of any such right, or the payment of money or delivery of any property, or the satisfaction of any obligation.5

The ‘execution of’ a valuable security means the making, acceptance, indorsement, alteration, cancellation or destruction in whole or in part of a valuable security.6

‘Deception’ means any knowingly false representation by words or conduct as to fact or as to law.7

‘Deception’ need only be present in circumstances where an accused is procuring the execution of a valuable security. It is not necessary for the prosecution to demonstrate deception in circumstances where the accused has destroyed, defaced or concealed a relevant document.

Element 2: The accused acted dishonestly, with a view to gain for themselves or intending to cause loss to another person.
To prove the second element of the offence, the prosecution must prove that the accused acted dishonestly, with a view to gain for themselves or with intent to cause loss to another.

An accused will have acted dishonestly if the accused themselves did not believe that they had, in all the circumstances, a legal right to destroy, deface or conceal a relevant document or procure the execution of a valuable security.8

The accused must further intend to gain for themselves or cause loss to another person. If the prosecution cannot prove this intention, the second element of the offence will not be made out.

“Can they prove that you were acting dishonestly?”

[2] Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) s 86(1)
[3] Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) s 86(2)
[4] Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) s 86(1)
[5] Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) s 86(3)
[6] Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) s 86(2)
[7] Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) s 81(4); R v Salvo [1980] VR 401
[8] R v Salvo [1980] VR 401

 
Defences to this charge are ordinarily based on some element of the offence not being made out. These defences include:

  • The accused did not destroy, deface or conceal a relevant document or by deception procure the execution of a valuable security.
  • The accused was not acting dishonestly with a view to gain for themselves or intending to cause loss to another person.
Other defences to this charge may be available depending on the circumstances of the case.

Questions in cases like this
  • Did the accused destroy, deface or conceal a relevant document?
  • Did the accused by deception procure the execution of a valuable security?
  • Is the accused acting dishonestly and with a view to gain for themselves or intending to cause loss to another person?
You should ring us and discuss your case if you have been charged. Deciding on whether to plead guilty or not has important implications for you and should be made after proper discussions with a criminal lawyer.
 

The maximum penalty that may be imposed for (s86 of the Crimes Act 1958) is 10 years imprisonment.9



[9] Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) s 86

Sentencing in the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria

The Sentencing Advisory Council has released statistics for people sentenced in the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria between 1 January 2010 and 31 December 2012. Greater detail is available on the Sentencing Advisory Council’s website, however some of the more pertinent information is outlined below.

Sentences for matters including an indecent assault

Of the 397 people sentenced in that period for matters including an indecent assault;

  • 14.9% received a sentence of imprisonment
  • 2.8% received a partially suspended period of imprisonment
  • 15.9% received a wholly suspended period of imprisonment
  • 32.5% received some form of community based order
  • 19.1% received a fine
  • 14.1% received an adjourned undertaking to be of good behaviour or were discharged or dismissed either with or without a conviction.
  • Of the people who received a period of imprisonment;
  • 15.3% received less than three months imprisonment
  • 15.3% received between three and six months imprisonment
  • 18.6% received between twelve and eighteen months imprisonment
  • 8.5% received between 18 and twenty-four months imprisonment
  • 8.5% received between twenty-four and thirty-six months imprisonment
  • 8.5% received more than thirty-six months imprisonment
  • A non-parole period was not set in 49.2% of cases but, where a non-parole period was set, the most common length was between 6 and 12 months (27.1% of cases).
  • The most commonly imposed length of Community Corrections Orders was between 12 and 18 months (84.5% of cases). The average length of Community Based Orders (now abolished and replaced by Community Corrections Orders) was between 12 and 24 months (88.6% of cases).
Sentences for matters for matters consisting only of charges of indecent assault

Of the 539 people sentenced for matters consisting only of charges of indecent assault;

  • 16.9% received a period of imprisonment
  • 2.9% received a partially suspended sentence of imprisonment
  • 13% received a wholly suspended period of imprisonment
  • 35% received some form of community based order,
  • 18.9% received a fine
  • 13.7% received an adjourned undertaking to be of good behaviour or were discharged or dismissed either with or without a conviction.

Of the people who received an aggregate period of imprisonment (aggregate sentencing occurs when the one sentence is imposed for all charges within a case, as opposed to individual sentences for individual charges);

  • 4.4% received less than three months imprisonment
  • 9.9% received between three and six months imprisonment
  • 13.2% received between six and 12 months imprisonment
  • 14.3% received between 12 and 18 months imprisonment
  • 5.5% received between 18 and 24 months imprisonment
  • and 8.8% received more than 24 months imprisonment.

Of the people who received a non-aggregated period of imprisonment

  • 8.8% received less than three months imprisonment
  • 5.5% received between three and six months imprisonment
  • 11% received between six and 12 months imprisonment
  • 13.2% received between 12 and 18 months imprisonment
  • 5.5% received between 18 and 24 months imprisonment
  • no one received more than 24 months imprisonment.

The statistics in regard to the length of community based orders imposed are the same as above.

Sentencing in the County Court of Victoria

 

The Sentencing Advisory Council’s Sentencing Snapshot 146 describes sentencing outcomes for indecent assault in the County Court of Victoria between 2007 and 2012. During this period 145 people were sentenced for a principle offence[15] of indecent assault. Of those sentenced, 30% received a period of immediate imprisonment, 32% received a wholly suspended sentence of imprisonment, 8% received a partially suspended period of imprisonment, 12% received some form of community based order, 6% received a fine, and 3% received an adjourned undertaking with conviction.

The median length of imprisonment imposed was 1 year and 5 months. The most common length of imprisonment imposed was between 1 and 2 years.

Of those people who received a principal sentence of imprisonment, 93% also received a total effective sentence of imprisonment.[16] The median total effective length of imprisonment was 2 years and 15 days.

When a person is sentenced to a term of imprisonment of one year or more, the court may fix a non-parole period. Where a non-parole period is fixed, the person must serve that period before being eligible for parole. Of those eligible to have a non-parole period fixed, 86% were given a non-parole period. The median length of the non-parole periods set was 1 year and 3 months. The most common non-parole period imposed was between 1 and 2 years.

Where an offender received a total effective period of imprisonment, the most common sentence was 2 years with a non-parole period of 1 year.

To view sentencing decisions by Victorian County Courts for the charge of Indecent Assault, visit this page.

[14] Section 39(1) of the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic).
[15] If a person is sentenced for a case with a single charge, the offence for that charge is the principal offence. If a person is sentenced for more than one charge in a single case, the principal offence is the offence for the charge that attracted the most serious sentence according to the sentencing hierarchy.
[16] The total effective sentence in a case with a single charge is the principal sentence. The total effective sentence in a case with multiple charges is the sentence that results from the court ordering the individual sentences for each charge to be served concurrently (at the same time) or wholly or partially cumulatively (one after the other).