Is it a Crime to Climb or Jump from Buildings or Other Structures in NSW?

By Sahar Adatia and Jimmy Singh.


Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last several years, you’ll likely know that selfies have become the art of our generation.

In our modern times, people everywhere seem to be celebrating something with some sort of a selfie and posting it to their social media somewhere, often in the hope of gaining viral acclaim for their photo.

But lately, in the pursuit of clicks, likes, and followers, a growing number of people are taking selfies to extreme levels, risking injury and even death in search of the perfect Instagram shot… Skyscraper selfie, Sitting on Edge of Cliff selfie, Smiling with Bear selfie, anyone?

Indeed, it seems there are a lot of stupid people out there, and unfortunately, there are a lot of ways to show off that stupidity – and also be left in a critical condition or potentially even dead in the process.

Take for example a Victorian man who, last month, caused complete chaos after he climbed a 74-metre-high, heritage-listed bridge in Brisbane, all to capture the perfect selfie.

At 4am on 13 April 2019, the 30-year-old man climbed the historic Story Bridge, which spans the Brisbane River in the centre of the city, between Fortitude Valley to Kangaroo Point.

The Bonbeach man dangerously scaled the steel structure, which carries vehicular, bicycle and pedestrian traffic between the northern and southern suburbs of Brisbane, and even interrupted a group of sightseers on a scheduled bridge climb in the process.


Entire Bridge Shut Down in Both Directions

It wasn’t long before emergency services and police arrived at the scene to remove the man.

Meanwhile, the entire bridge had to be shut down in both directions.

The Story Bridge is known as Brisbane’s most iconic structure.

It is also the longest cantilever bridge in Australia.

The selfie stuntman was charged with unregulated high-risk activities, public nuisance and obstructing police.

Click here for an outline on the penalties for obstructing or resisting police in NSW.


259 Dead Between 2011 and 2017: The Emerging Problem of Selfie Deaths

As snapping the perfect selfie from the top of the world’s tallest statues or death-defying cliff faces becomes a more prominent activity, so too does the amount of deaths resulting from selfie photography.

Indeed, the amount of young people who have perished in the process of taking a selfie in such dangerous circumstances is staggering.

According to a 2018 global study published in the Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care, it was found that between October 2011 and November 2017, there were 259 deaths that resulted while clicking selfies. This spanned 137 incidents.

The mean age was 22.94 years, and approximately 72.5% of the total deaths occurred in males. Female deaths accounted for 27.5%.

Meanwhile, it was also found that the highest number of incidents and selfie deaths were reported in India, followed by Russia, the United States, and Pakistan. Researchers attributed the high number of selfie deaths to India due to its enormous population of people under 30, which is the world’s largest.


Drowning and Transport: The Leading Causes of Selfie Deaths

According to the study, drowning was the leading cause of selfie deaths, usually involving people being washed away by waves, beaches, or even falling out of a boat.

The second-leading cause of selfie deaths as referred to as “transport”, which included those killed, for example, while trying to take a quick shot in front of a moving train.

In third place were deaths resulting from fires and falls from high places.

Meanwhile, eight people were killed whilst taking selfies with dangerous animals.

The study concluded that “no selfie zones” should be declared, particularly across tourist areas including places such as water bodies, mountain peaks, and over tall buildings to decrease the incidence of selfie-related deaths.

What are the Penalties for Climbing or Jumping from Buildings and Other Structures in NSW?

If you’re attempting to snap a selfie from a bridge or structure in NSW, you may want to think twice.

There is a penalty of up to 3-months imprisonment and/or $1,100 fine if you risk the safety of anyone else as a result of climbing up or down (or descending or ascending) any part of a building or structure, or if you abseil, jump or parachute from any building or structure, unless you are using the stairs, lifts or other ways provided for you to ascent or descent.

This is reflected in section 8A Summary Offences Act 1988 (NSW).

Defences to this charge include doing anyone those things with a reasonable excuse or lawful purpose.

The law here refers to a “structure” as either a bridge, tower, or crane, but doesn’t include a structure which is provided for the purpose of climbing or jumping on for recreational reasons.

Ok, with that now made clear, about your latest Skyscraper Selfie – please stop! Remember, you can’t get likes if you’re not alive.

As Sydney’s leading criminal lawyers, we appear in all courts. Contact our office if you have a question on our 24/7 hotline (02) 8606 2218.

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