The Dangers and Penalties of Throwing Rocks at Vehicles in NSW

By Sahar Adatia and Jimmy Singh.

 

Back in 2008, the NSW government introduced tough new laws to make it illegal to throw rocks at vehicles or boats.

The new laws came into force after police interrogated three teenagers following a rock-throwing incident from an overpass in Sydney, prior to which, much debate had ensued in parliament after another incident in which a rock-thrower caused a woman permanent brain damage.

The rock crushed the car’s side window, struck the 22-year-old in the head, and shattered her skull.

A 25-year-old man was given a four-year jail sentence for the attack.

And with that, the law on throwing rocks at vehicles was amended by the NSW government to make this illegal – whether or not the rock hits the vehicle or not.

Over a decade later, the extremely dangerous and idiotic act continues to take place, risking the lives of innocent drivers.

 

January 2019: Two Perth Boys Charged with Throwing Rocks at 14 Cars

In the late hours of 4 January 2019, it is alleged two 16-year-old boys began throwing rocks at vehicles travelling north on the Kwinana Freeway over a fence set up near Berrigan Drive in Cockburn Central.

The rocks hit more than a dozen cars and trucks along the 80km/h section of the freeway.

Around 11:30pm, police received 14 reports of the rocks being thrown from the western side of the carriageway, which lasted for 15 minutes.

Several vehicles were damaged, with one rock, the size of a large football, smashing through the windscreen of a Toyota Camry.

The rock struck a 55-year-old man in the chest who was sitting in the front passenger seat. He was taken by ambulance to Fiona Stanley Hospital, and although suffering grazing and bruises, luckily did not undergo life-threatening injuries.

Police Dog Mako was deployed and soon tracked down the two boys via scent, who were hiding in a shed at a nearby house in Cockburn at 12am on 6 January.

On Saturday morning, police questioned the offenders, and by the afternoon, had charged them with 14 counts of unlawful act or omission with intent to harm (endangering life, health or safety or any person) as well as 14 counts each of criminal damage.

 

Just Two Weeks Later: Mother Fears for Life in Western Australia Freeway Rock Attack

Just two weeks following this incident, a South Lake mother became victim to a similar rock-throwing attack, in which a huge boulder was hurled through her windscreen on the Kwinana Freeway.

Lisa Olislaegers feared her three young children nearly didn’t make it home after the rock was pelted from an overpass in Leeming.

“It’s sickening… It could have hit one of the kids,” Ms Olislaegers said.

“I literally saw a rock coming towards the car – it hit the car with a mighty loud bang.

“The kids started screaming.”

As Ms Olislaegers vehicle was hit on the overpass between South Street and Farrington Road, she was able to react instantaneously, slamming the brakes as she was almost collected by a truck that was travelling behind her.

Incredibly, the mother was not injured, and although shaken, managed to drive to her father’s house nearby where she informed police of the incident.

 

The Dangers of Throwing Rocks at Moving Vehicles

In recent years, many news stories have surfaced of rocks being thrown at vehicles from overpasses all around Australia’s highways and other roadways.

This has become a significant problem for motorists, particularly because a hard object such as a rock cannot only drastically damage the vehicle, but more importantly, cause severe injuries and even fatalities of drivers and their passengers.

Throwing rocks at vehicles is not simply a prank – it is dangerous and reckless. When a large boulder hits a vehicle, which could be travelling on highways at 80km/h, the impact can cause the windshield to break and a person can be killed.

Thrown rocks have the potential to injure or kill in several ways. These include:

  • Hitting a driver or passenger directly in the head with lethal force
  • Striking the driver and causing them to lose control of the vehicle and crash
  • Crashing into the windscreen resulting in the driver to lose control and crash due to the sudden shock of the unexpected attack.

 

What are the Penalties for Throwing Rocks at Vehicles in NSW?

In NSW, it is an offence to throw rocks and other objects at vehicles and vessels.

The charge is usually applied in circumstances where people hurl rocks at motor vehicles on highways from overpasses – the greater degree of danger significantly caused due to the rocks being thrown from such towering heights.

A person can be charged with this offence if he/she drops or throws a rock or other object at or towards a vehicle or vessel that is either on the road, railway, or waters.

There must be a person occupying the vehicle, resulting in their safety being put at risk.

The offence of throwing rocks and other objects at vehicles and vessels carries a maximum penalty of five years in jail. This is contained in section 49A Crimes Act 1900 (NSW).

A person will be guilty of committing this offence if the prosecution is able to prove each of the following elements of the crime beyond reasonable doubt in court:

  1. The accused person intentionally threw an object at, or drops an object on or towards, a vehicle (or vessel) where the vehicle or vessel was on a road, railway or navigable waters; and
  2. There was a person in that vehicle (or vessel); and
  3. This caused a risk of a person’s safety.

This offence applies even if the vehicle or vessel was stationary at the time.

This offence also applies even if the person accused wasn’t aware that his/her conduct risked a person’s safety or if the object thrown didn’t actually hit a vehicle (or vessel).

Under this law, a “road” is an area that’s open to or used by the public and is developed for, or has as one of its main uses, the driving or riding of motor vehicles.

“Throwing” also includes propelling. While a “vehicle” includes a motor vehicle, train, tram, bicycle or a vehicle drawn by an animal or an animal ridden by a person.

An outline of the defences to this charge includes, if no one was actually in the vehicle or vessel, if you acted in self defence to protect your property, yourself or someone else, or you acted under a necessity or duress.

Committing this offence can also potentially give rise to the charge of damaging property under section 195 Crimes Act 1900 (NSW). This offence carries heavy maximum penalties of up to 12-years jail.

Call us 24/7 on (02) 8606 2218 if you wish to ask a question or leave a comment on one of our social media pages. We provide a free first consultation.

We are one of Sydney’s leading criminal defence lawyers with 8 offices across NSW.

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