Terrorism offenders in NSW, while rare, have been analysed to be predominantly young men who are largely caught whilst still in the planning stage of attacks.
The NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (‘BOSCAR’) took this data, whilst examining the 72 terrorism offences proven in NSW criminal courts from July 2002 to May 2020.
These offences involved a total of 48 offenders.
Most of these offenders received a prison sentence (94%), however, some received a community-based order such as a Community Correction Order with supervision, Intensive Correction Order, or bond without supervision.
The most common offence categories were terrorism planning offences (39%), breaches of control and supervision orders (21%), offences relating to the collection, manufacture, or possession of terrorism items (18%) and terrorism financing offences (7%).
Notably, a majority of these offences have been able to be prosecuted due to legislation enabling proactive policing and targeting prevention of terrorism-related activities.
“Since the initial introduction of terrorism offences in July 2002, the legislative environment governing terrorism offending in Australia has expanded rapidly, incorporating further mechanisms to allow for proactive policing of terrorism offending.” stated Stewart Boiteux.
Most terrorism offences have occurred after the Federal Government raised the National Terrorism Threat Advisory System threat level from “Possible” to “Probable” 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.
The number of Australians who were joining conflicts in Iraq and Syria, supporting overseas extremist groups, and potentially planning domestic attacks sparked considerable concern.
BOSCAR noted how most terrorism offenders can be largely characterised as male, aged between 18 and 30 years, non-Aboriginal, from an area of socioeconomic disadvantage and residing in a major city.
Despite these strong demographic similarities, BOSCAR cautioned against treating offenders as a homogenous group due to the presence of strong outliers.
This can be seen within the figure that some offenders were from areas associated with the lowest level of socioeconomic disadvantage.
Over half of all terrorism offenders had at least one prior court appearance with a proven conviction, and one quarter had previously been in prison.
The previous offences were largely other crime types, largely relating to offences against justice procedures, government security and government operations.
The remaining 42% had no history of committing non-terrorism offences.
Terrorism offenders were also found to have vastly different motivations than those who have committed other non-terrorism related offences as they routinely score lower on risk profiles such as alcohol and drug use, employment, education, and emotional/personal.
The report calls for more research into how much terrorism offenders differ in order to design programs or interventions aimed at reducing terrorism offending as well as for the development of valid risk assessment tools.
Recently, a 25-year-old Sydney faced court after allegedly breaching a Federal Court of Australia Control Order.
The AFP High Risk Terrorist Offenders team arrested the man at his Denistone residence.
Police will allege that the man failed to comply with a condition of the Control Order by accessing material online that supported the carrying out of executions, beheadings, and torture.
The man was released from prison in January 2021 and is subject to a Control Order that remains in force until 30 December 2021.
He has been charged with three counts of contravening a Federal Court of Australia Control Order, contrary to section 104.27 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth).
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The Offence of Contravening a Control Order
It is an offence for a person to contravene a control order whilst it is in force, with a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment, under section 104.27.
A Control Order can stop a person from being in certain areas or leaving Australia, communicating, or associating with certain people, owning or using certain things, carrying out certain activities, including work, and accessing certain forms of technology, including the internet.
It can require a person to remain at specified premises for a maximum of 12 hours within any 24-hour period, wear a tracking device, report to someone at a certain time and place and allow themselves to be photographed and fingerprinted.
A person can be subject to a Control Order if:
- it substantially helps prevent a terrorist attack,
- the person has trained with a listed terrorist organisation,
- the person has engaged in a hostile activity in a foreign country,
- the person has been convicted of an offence in Australia relating to terrorism, a terrorist organisation, or a terrorist act, or
- the person has been convicted overseas for an offence that would, if occurred in Australia, be a terrorism offence within the definition of the Crimes Act.
A control order does not come into effect until the person subject to it is notified of the order.
It cannot last longer than 12 months or apply to children under 14 years old.
For people aged at least 14 but under 18, it can apply for a maximum of three months.
Five people have been arrested due to alleged breaches of Control Orders since July 2020.
“Control orders are issued by courts. Our High Risk Terrorist Offender teams work tirelessly to ensure control orders are complied with and enforce identified breaches,” Acting Commander Nicolson said.
Their purposes is to: “ensure the ongoing safety of the Australian community.”