Terrorism Offences and Penalties in Australia

Image credit: Thomas Koch

 

Poppy Morandin.

A convicted 28-year-old female terrorist tried to stab a fellow prisoner in the neck with garden shears, in hopes of gaining international exposure.

Momena Shoma has pleaded guilty to engaging in a terrorist act, whist incarcerated, at Ravenhall Corrections Centre in October last year.

Shoma was previously in 24-hour lockdown in Dame Phyllis Frost jail in Melbourne, however, was moved and allowed to socialise with other prisoners after pretending to be deradicalised.

Despite this, a month into her re-introduction into the prison population, she attacked Kailee Mitz.

Shoma attempted to stab Mitz in the neck with garden shears, however, Mitz was able to leap out of the way and protect herself with her hands, sustaining only an injury to her thumb.

The garden shears had been left unattended by another inmate, who was able to have access to them.

Shoma wrapped the shears in her headscarf and newspaper before seeking out Mitz, who was lying on a couch.

Two other female inmates held Shoma back after the attack as prison guards rushed to respond.

The prosecutor remarked how she had a smile on her face and was seen laughing, whilst being restrained.

The court heard how Shoma had even remarked to authorities that she would have preferred to use a ‘suicide bomb’ and cheered when she was told she would be charged with committing a terrorist attack.

Mitz is a Canadian national who is currently on remand following charges of importing methamphetamine from Canada.

She is awaiting sentence after pleading guilty this month.

Shoma admitted she specifically chose to attack the woman because of her nationality, telling police: “if it was someone local it would be of interest to Australian media only”.

Shoma was imprisoned for 42 years in 2019 after stabbing her homestay host in the neck while he slept, in an ISIS-motivated attack.

Against all odds, the man survived the attack.

The force of her attack was so strong that the knife’s tip broke off in the man’s neck.

She has pleaded guilty to the most recent charges of engaging in a terrorist attack and being a member of a terrorist organisation for the prison stabbing.

She will be sentenced at a later date in the Supreme Court of Victoria.

Statistics reveal that from July 2002 to May 2020, there have been 72 terrorism offences proved in NSW criminal courts, involving 48 offenders.

The National Terrorism Threat Advisory System threat level has been at “Probable”, since being raised from “Possible” in 2014.

This decision was influenced by conflicts in Syria and Iraq, the rise of the ‘Islamic State’ and its declaration of a caliphate in June 2014.

Terrorism Offences and Penalties in Australia

Division 101 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth) criminalises terrorist offences under Australian law.

Pursuant to section 101.1, a person who engages in a terrorist act faces a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

Section 15.4 of the Code applies to this section, indicating that the offence applies whether or not the conduct constituting the alleged offence occurs in Australia.

 

Definition of a ‘Terrorist Act’

According to section 100.1 of the Criminal Code Act, a ‘terrorist act’ means an action or threat of action involving the intention of advancing a political, religious, or ideological cause.

Furthermore, it must be done with the intention of coercing, or influencing by intimidation, a government or intimidating the public or a section of the public.

An action will fall within this definition if it causes serious physical harm to a person, serious damage to property, a person’s death or endangers a person’s life, other than the life of the person taking the action.

Furthermore, an action will also fall within this definition if the actions create a serious risk to the health or safety of the public/a section of the public or that seriously interferes with, disrupts, or destroys, an electronic system including, information, telecommunications, or financial systems will also be considered.

However, an action will not be considered a terrorist act if it is merely advocacy, protest, dissent, or industrial action and it is not intended to cause serious harm, death, or endangerment of someone’s life/public safety.

‘Terrorist Organisation’ Offences and Penalties in Australia

If a person intentionally is a member of a terrorist organisation, knowing it is a terrorist organisation, they face a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment, under section 102.3.

A defence is available if the person took all reasonable steps to cease to be a member of the organisation as soon as practicable after they knew that the organisation was a terrorist organisation.

The burden is on the accused to prove they took the steps mentioned above.

 

Definition of a ‘Terrorist Organisation’

Terrorist organisations include organisations directly or indirectly engaged in, preparing, planning, assisting in or fostering the doing of a terrorist act.

Organisations may also be specified as a terrorist organisation by regulations.

There are currently 26 organisations listed as terrorist organisations under the Criminal Code, including Al-Qa’ida and the Islamic State.

Interesting facts: Did you know that you generally get one go at making a bail application in the Local Court. This means, if not prepared well the first time, you can’t make a second bail application unless circumstances change or new evidence comes to light in the case. Speak to one of our bail lawyers Sydney based today.

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