Commonwealth Offences

The various Commonwealth Offences and their punishments are all created by the Federal Government. Also keep in mind that the Commonwealth Law is different from the State Law.

Commonwealth offences range from the common Social Security Fraud or Centrelink Fraud to the major ones like treachery, which is considered not only an offence against the Australian Government but also against the country and its people. Most of the Commonwealth offences committed against Australia’s law system are found and defined in the Crimes Act of 1914 and the Social Security (Administration) Act of 1999.

Dealing with Commonwealth offences is an elaborate process of legal actions and proceedings that aim to fully identify the type of crime, the perpetrator, whether the offence is considered a Summary or an Indictable one, and then the punishment.

Crimes against the Commonwealth Laws

Commonwealth offences are not a specific type of crime. They can be considered the umbrella that covers most of the crimes committed in Australia and even the crimes that make use of external resources, such as the following:

  • Social Security Fraud
  • Money Laundering
  • Child pornography and child abuse offences
  • Evasion of duty
  • Illegal importing and exporting (Customs Offences)
  • Smuggling (Customs Offences)
  • Passport offences
  • Offences under Quarantine Act 1908
  • Offences under Migration Act 1958
  • Offences under Financial Transaction Reports Act 1988
  • Offences against the Government
  • Unlawful drilling
  • Interfering with political liberty
  • Damaging and destroying Commonwealth property
  • Terrorism
  • Treachery

These are just some of the crimes under Commonwealth Offences as listed in the Crimes Act of 1914 and the Social Security (Administration) Act of 1999.

The two types of Commonwealth Offences

Commonwealth offences can be dealt with either summarily or with an indictment. Summary offences are punishable by imprisonment, with a term of 12 months or less, or it may not require any jail time. Alternatively, an offence can be dealt with summarily if the prosecutor and the defendant manage to see eye to eye and agree that the case be handled summarily.

Indictments or indictable offences, on the other hand, are punishable by imprisonment longer than 12 months. However, if the prosecutor and defendant can settle on dealing with the case summarily, then they can.

Party Offences

Commonwealth offences extend to anything that can either hinder or manipulate particular cases. They are committed when an individual or a group aids or assists another individual who they know is guilty of committing a Commonwealth offence or offences. In this case, they will also be charged with offences of their own.

Multiple Offences

As long as all the charges are under one provision of a Commonwealth law, it is possible for these charges to be combined into one offence. However, it is important to make sure that the charges are established or founded on the same facts or on a particular criminal offence.


The level of investigation needed for Commonwealth offences will reflect on the case itself, as well as on its severity. For example, an investigation for terrorism requires more manpower and intel compared to a Centrelink fraud case.

A suspect or the person who is arrested can be released on bail or other methods within the investigation period. This is important, especially for people wrongfully accused of a crime or were maybe used as a front for a crime committed by other people.

Know your rights

There might be a big difference between Commonwealth and State offences, but suspects for both have the same rights. If you are ever accused of a crime you did not commit, here are your rights:

  • Right to communicate or contact with a third person
  • Right to an interpreter if needed
  • Right to have your confessions and admissions tape recorded by either the police or other authorities
  • Right to bail
  • (For None-Australian citizens) Right to communicate or connect with the consular office of the country where the person arrested is from. These individuals need to first be advised by a lawyer or an expert before answering questions. They should never answer questions if not properly advised.
  • All arrested persons or suspects should be treated with “humanity and with respect for human dignity, and must not be subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment”: Crimes Act 1914 Section 23Q. This is all about fulfilling Australia’s obligations under articles 7, 9, and 10 of the ICCPR or International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Aboriginal and child suspects also have their rights. For Aboriginal suspects, it is important for an Aboriginal legal aid to be aware that a certain Aboriginal individual is arrested or is a protected suspect. To better understand the rights of Child suspects, it is advisable to read Crimes Act 1914 section 23L “Exceptions” and then 23K “Persons Under 18.”

Important reminder

If you or someone close to you is involved in a Commonwealth crime, everything you need to know is detailed in the Crimes Act of 1914. If arrested or connected to a Commonwealth crime, it is important for you to know your rights and to never answer questions if you are not properly advised or briefed by an expert.

Australia’s law system is elaborate, straightforward, and broad when it comes to dealing with Commonwealth offences. There are many individuals burdened with Commonwealth offence cases due to the lack of knowledge about the law and their rights.

In this regard, it is important, especially for victims, to know their way around the legal processes to get the justice they deserve. This concept also applies to people who are falsely accused of a crime. The Australian government does its part in disseminating as much information as they can through technological resources and legal consultations. It is essential for everyone to know the law and how it is executed.

If you find yourself in these situations, don’t be afraid. Keep in mind that there are legal proceedings for all of these cases and you are not automatically guilty even if they put handcuffs on you.
Know your rights and work only with the best legal professionals.

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