Consorting is a legal term that refers to the act of associating or communicating with known criminals. In New South Wales (NSW) the issue of consorting is taken seriously due to its potential to facilitate criminal activities. Consorting laws can even apply between family members.
The objective of consorting laws is to prevent individuals from engaging in activities that could support or facilitate criminal behaviour.
In New South Wales, consorting meaning is considered a criminal offence under the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW). Section 93X of the Act defines consorting as “habitually consorting with convicted offenders after having been given an official warning.” This definition highlights the importance of regular and repeated association with known criminals to establish the offence of consorting.
Charlie Foster, a 21-year-old man became the inaugural individual to face charges of ‘habitually consorting’ under section 93X of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) for socialising with friends.
Following his conviction in the Local Court and serving a majority of his 12-month sentence, Charlie successfully appealed to the Supreme Court of NSW. The court ruled that a casual and coincidental meeting between individuals does not qualify as consorting.
Consorting laws have been enacted in various Australian states and territories to address the issue of organised crime and criminal networks. These laws aim to disrupt and dismantle criminal associations by targeting the individuals who provide support or assistance to known offenders.
Section 93X of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) provides that a person who:
(a) habitually consorts with convicted offenders ; and
(b) consorts with those convicted offenders after having been given an official warning in relation to each of those convicted offenders is guilty of an offence.
In New South Wales, consorting laws were introduced as part of the Crimes Amendment (Consorting and Organized Crime) Act 2012. The legislation provides law enforcement agencies with the power to issue official warnings to individuals engaged in consorting activities. These warnings serve as a notification that continued association with convicted offenders may lead to criminal charges.
Once an official warning has been issued, individuals are expected to cease consorting with known criminals. Failure to comply with the warning can result in criminal prosecution. Consorting laws apply to both individuals with a criminal record and those without a prior conviction.
The effectiveness of an official warning will expire if it is issued to an individual below the age of 18 years and six months, six months after the warning is given. In all other cases, the warning will cease to have effect two years after it is issued.
Regarding this offence, a ‘convicted offender’ refers to a person who has been found guilty of an indictable offence, which is a serious offence carrying a maximum penalty exceeding two years of imprisonment.
A person charged with consorting can raise in their defence that:
The criminal law penalty for breaching consorting laws in NSW can vary depending on the circumstances and the seriousness of the offence. Upon conviction, individuals can face significant penalties, including fines and imprisonment.
For a first offence of consorting, the maximum penalty is a fine of up to 100 penalty units (currently $11,000 as per the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Amendment (Provincial Court Corporate Defendants) Regulation 2021) or imprisonment for up to 12 months, or both.
For subsequent offences, the penalties increase. A person found guilty of a second offence can be fined up to 150 penalty units (currently $16,500) or imprisoned for up to 2 years, or both. For a third or subsequent offence, the maximum penalty is a fine of 200 penalty units (currently $22,000) or imprisonment for up to 3 years, or both.
The penalties mentioned above are the maximum possible penalties and may not always be imposed. The severity of the penalty depends on factors such as the individual’s prior criminal history, the nature of their association with convicted offenders, and any mitigating circumstances.
Consorting in NSW is a serious offence that aims to disrupt organised criminal activities and protect public safety. Understanding the meaning of consorting, the associated laws, and the potential penalties for breaching these laws is crucial for individuals seeking to avoid legal troubles. By complying with the consorting laws, individuals can contribute to the efforts of law enforcement agencies in maintaining a safe and secure society.
The finalisation of a consorting charge will be concluded in the Local Court of NSW unless the Director of Public Prosecutions chooses to have the case concluded in the District Court. If the case is concluded in the Local Court, a maximum penalty of two years imprisonment can be imposed by the Court.
If you need legal advice, guidance or representation for after being charged for breaking consorting laws, kindly reach out to our criminal lawyers in Parramatta. You should not represent yourself in court for a charge of this nature. We will provide you with a 15 minute free legal consultation.