The Offence and Penalties of Throwing Rocks at Vehicles in NSW

Sahar Adatia.


A passenger has narrowly escaped injury after travelling on a Sydney train that had a large rock about the size of a basketball thrown at it.

According to a statement from NSW Police, the incident took place around 3:45pm on Thursday 30 September 2021, during which time the train was making its way through the southern suburb of Oatley, namely between Oatley Bridge and Oatley Railway Station.

The boulder was hurled from above and caused extensive damage to a window of the front train carriage – shattering both the glass and plastic safety panelling – and only just missing a female passenger who happened to be sitting inside the carriage.

Officers from the Police Transport and Public Safety Command were notified of the incident and an investigation was initiated surrounding the rock-throwing.

In their statement, NSW Police advised of the sighting of “three young people in the area”, believed to be associated with the incident.

As inquiries continue, police are now urging anyone who witnessed the occurrence or who saw three young people in the vicinity of Como Bridge and Oatley Railway Station to come forward or contact Crime Stoppers.

The Oatley incident comes against an increasing number of similar cases reported in recent years across Australia that have seen rocks or boulders launched at a variety of vehicles and vessels from overpasses.

One of these involves South Australian woman, Lauren Mangelsdorf, who, in 2018, had a rock thrown at her car while she was driving along the Southern Expressway with her two-year-old son.

Ms Mangelsdorf’s vehicle was struck near the Moore Road bridge at Reynella in Adelaide’s southern suburbs.

“I was travelling home from work at 100 kilometres per hour,” she said to ABC News.

Then, Ms Mangelsdorf recalls a rock, the size of a fist, out of nowhere struck the bonnet of her car and sprang up into her windscreen.

“At that point it was pretty clear that someone had thrown that rock at my vehicle,” she said.

“I was thankful that I wasn’t injured but I went through all the ‘what ifs?’.

“What if I had swerved my vehicle? What if it had gone through the side where my son was sitting?”

Wading through her shock, Ms Mangelsdorf managed to pull her car over, and with the help of a number of other drivers, called the police.

She said those who used the expressway regularly were “vulnerable” to such “brazen” attacks, which are far from uncommon.

“When I see people going over the bridges, I do brace myself and pay more attention to what they’re doing,” Ms Mangelsdorf said.

Indeed, for motorists and even passengers of public transport, such rock-throwing incidents place innocent lives in danger and put them at risk of severe injury, given bulky, hard objects are a potential source of lethal power, especially when thrown from soaring heights.

Moreover, given the sheer shock of such an unpredicted strike, a rock thrown at a vehicle can cause the driver to lose control of the vehicle or crash into another road user.

Often, it is youths – regarding the act a prank – who tend to partake in throwing rocks at vehicles and vessels from overpasses.

The Offence and Penalties of Throwing Rocks at Vehicles in NSW

In NSW, it is against the law to throw rocks and other objects at vehicles and vessels, and so seriously is the matter taken by the courts that in the prosecution of an offence of this kind, it is not necessary to prove that the accused was aware that their conduct risked the safety of any person or that the object made contact with the vehicle or vessel.

This is reflected in Section 49A of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW), which outlines that a person is guilty of an offence if they intentionally throw an object at or drop an object on or towards a vehicle or vessel that is on any road, railway or navigable waters, and there is a person in the vehicle or vessel, which thus results in their safety being put at risk.

This includes a vehicle or vessel that is stationary at the time that has an object thrown or dropped on it.

The offence of throwing rocks or an object at a vehicle or vessel carries a maximum penalty of five years jail.

This severe maximum penalty is intended to reflect the extreme danger that motorists are exposed to when a rock or object is propelled onto them, which in many cases take place from a highway overpass.

A “vehicle” includes a motor vehicle, train or tram, bicycle, and vehicle drawn by an animal or an animal ridden by a person, as per section 4 of the Road Transport Act 2013 (NSW).

Questions? Speak to a criminal lawyers in Sydney today.

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