Unauthorised Access, Modification Or Impairment With Intent To Commit A Serious Offence

– section 477.1 of the Commonwealth Criminal Code Act 1995

Man in Front of ComputerThe Commonwealth offence of unauthorised access, modification or impairment with intent to commit a serious offence is a very serious offence.

A person can be charged with this offence in situations where computer data is accessed, modified or impaired by a person who is not authorised. Furthermore this must be done with an intent to commit or facilitate a serious offence.

Examples of Unauthorised Access, Modification Or Impairment With Intent To Commit A Serious Offence
  • A person accesses a hire car companies computer system so that he can steal their cars.
  • A person accesses a company computer system and changes their personal details on a companies allowing them to do something that would not have otherwise be able to do.
  • A person accesses a social media website without authorisation and incites racially motivated violence.
Questions in cases like this
  • Did you access computer data?
  • Did you have authorisation?
  • What was your intent?
What are some of the possible defences to Unauthorised Access, Modification Or Impairment With Intent To Commit A Serious Offence?

Defences to this could be that the accused did not know that the access, modification or impairment was unauthorised or that the accused did not access, modify or impair any data held in a computer.

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 and court that deals with this charge

County CourtThis offence carries a maximum penalty of imprisonment for life or imprisonment for a period of 5 or more years.

This charge is at the high range of criminal behaviour. That is why there is a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. Cases of this nature will be heard in the County Court.

What is the legal definition of Unauthorised Access, Modification Or Impairment With Intent To Commit A Serious Offence?

Intention to commit a serious Commonwealth, State or Territory offence

  1. A person is guilty of an offence if:
    1. the person causes:
      1. any unauthorised access to data held in a computer; or
      2. any unauthorised modification of data held in a computer; or
      3. any unauthorised impairment of electronic communication to or from a computer; and
    2. the person knows the access, modification or impairment is unauthorised; and
    3. the person intends to commit, or facilitate the commission of, a serious offence against a law of the Commonwealth, a State or a Territory (whether by that person or another person) by the access, modification or impairment.
“Have you been accused of accessing computer data unauthorised?”
  1. In a prosecution for an offence against subsection (1), it is not necessary to prove that the defendant knew that the offence was:
    1. an offence against a law of the Commonwealth, a State or a Territory; or
    2. a serious offence.

Penalty

  1. A person who is guilty of an offence against this section is punishable, on conviction, by a penalty not exceeding the penalty applicable to the serious offence.

Impossibility

  1. A person may be found guilty of an offence against this section even if committing the serious offence is impossible.

No offence of attempt

  1. It is not an offence to attempt to commit an offence against this section.

Meaning of serious offence

  1. In this section:
    serious offence means an offence that is punishable by imprisonment for life or a period of 5 or more years

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Legislation

The legislation for this offence can be found on section 477.1 of Criminal Code Act 1995.

Elements of the offence

In essence to prove this charge the Prosecution must show that the accused caused any unauthorised access or modification of data held in a computer or any unauthorised impairment of electronic communication to or from a computer where the accused knows the access, modification or impairment to be unauthorised and is undertaken with the intention of committing a serious offence.

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