In circumstances where a person calls “000” with the intention of inducing a false belief that an emergency exists (aka, a ‘hoax call’), the person may be charged with a criminal offence, for which the penalties can include imprisonment of up to three (3) years.
Section 474.18(1) of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth) prescribes the offence, along with Section 474.18(2) which contains another closely related offence.
Under the later section, a person will also be found guilty of an offence if it can be proved that they made a call to an emergency service number otherwise than for the purpose of reporting an emergency and the call was a “vexatious” one.
In determining whether a call to an emergency service number is “vexatious”, the Court will have regard to:
- The content of the call; and
- The number, frequency and content of previous calls the person has made to emergency service numbers otherwise than for the purpose of reporting emergencies; and
- Any other relevant matter
Again, the maximum penalty for such an offence is three (3) years’ imprisonment.
As this is a Commonwealth offence, it applies throughout NSW.
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