Suppression of Documents

The offence of Suppression of Documents is found in section 86 of the Crimes Act 1958 in Victoria. It is a criminal offence for a person to destroy, deface, or conceal any valuable security or important document with the intention of gaining something for themselves or causing a loss to another person.

Have you been accused of Suppression of Documents?

Man in a Meeting
Police Interview
The police will only interview you because they suspect you have committed this offence. Don’t be fooled with them telling you they ‘only want to have a chat’. They normally make up their behind to charge someone before the interview.

If you have been contacted by police to attend an interview, we recommend seeking legal advice before you go. It’s important that you know what you should and shouldn’t say in a police interview.

If the Police want to speak with you about an allegation of Suppression of Documents, one of our experienced criminal lawyers would be happy to assist you in preparing for interview. Remember that anything you tell the Police can be used against you later on, so preparation is key. Our lawyers can also attend the Police station with you if you feel more comfortable having someone on your side.

Pleading Not Guilty
If you wish to contest a charge of Suppression of Documents, speak with one of our experienced lawyers as soon as possible. One of our lawyers will look at the brief of evidence and advise you on your prospects of successfully defending the charge. We are proactive in our approach to representing people and want to make sure your interests are protected.

For example, we consider – are there witnesses who the Police have not spoken to? Is there evidence that police have not gathered?

Our team will work hard to push for the matter to be withdrawn or acquitted early on.

Pleading Guilty
Pleading guilty to Suppression of Documents means that that you accept responsibility for the offence.

Even in circumstances where you accept wrongdoing and you agree that you have committed this offence, you should always seek advice and legal representation from an experienced criminal lawyer. Your lawyer understands the Court process and what is required to help you get the best outcome in your particular circumstances.

Which court will the case be heard in?
This offence is an indictable offence triable summarily.1 This means it may be heard in either the Magistrates’ Court or the County Court.

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?”

Defences
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.

Maximum penalty for section 86 of the Crimes Act 1958
The maximum penalty that may be imposed for (s86 of the Crimes Act 1958) is 10 years imprisonment.9


[1] Criminal Procedure Act 2009 (Vic) s 28(1)(b)(iii)
[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
[9] Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) s 86