What is Offensive Conduct?

By Sahar Adatia and Jimmy Singh.

 

It was a sticky situation at best for protester Eric Serge Herbert who had the eyes of onlookers cemented when he decided to superglue himself to a busy Brisbane street during morning peak hour traffic, all in the name of climate change.

On 18 June 2019, the 19-year-old, along with a fellow protestor, embarked on a mission to glue themselves to a zebra crossing and shut down Queen Street in Brisbane’s CBD.

The pair’s protest began at 7:30am and caused delays to traffic for three hours.

The activists were joined by a larger group of protestors, who were calling on the government to declare a climate change emergency.

The protest, which was conducted by Extinction Rebellion South East Queensland had begun earlier that morning.

 

Chemical Compound Used to Remove Protestors from the Ground

Queensland police, along with the fire brigade and paramedics were soon to arrive on the scene.

When asked what the protestors were doing, Mr Herbert said they were protesting against “an extinction”.

“I can’t live with myself knowing that’s happening and not do anything about it,” the man told AAP.

Despite the impassioned plea, police and paramedics were eventually forced to remove the pair from the ground using a chemical compound.

Their removal came much to the dismay of Extinction Rebellion spokesman Greg Rolles, who said the group would like the government to take action against climate change.

“What we’ve got here are two brave protestors who have put their own livelihoods on the like to try and protect our future,” Mr Rolles said.

 

Inspector Geoff Acreman: Stunt a “Ridiculous Waste of Resources”

Speaking of the situation, Police inspector Geoff Acreman said the stunt was a ridiculous waste of resources.

“This is a massive inconvenience to emergency services and resources,” he said.

“I don’t think it does their cause any good in relation to getting the public on-side either. The public is pretty annoyed to have been inconvenienced as they have been today.”

Inspector Acreman said the pair had not committed a crime, however they had caused a public nuisance.

The protestors also failed to comply with police direction to leave the scene.

 

Mr Herbert Pleads Guilty to Public Nuisance

After spending the night in the watch-house, and refusing to sign his bail undertaking when police tried to release him, Mr Herbert fronted Brisbane Magistrates Court the following day.

“He was offered bail but like a true armchair revolutionary he wasn’t going to sign it,” Magistrate Suzette Coates said.

During his court appearance, he upheld that he was protesting the “genocide of life on earth”.

“I don’t care what punishment I get. Nothing’s going to stop me from doing this again,” he said.

Mr Herbert pleaded guilty to public nuisance and contravening a direction.

He was fined $550, however had no conviction recorded.

Mr Herbert is a former university student who is unemployed. He is supported by his parents.

 

What is Public Nuisance?

In Queensland, a person commits an act of public nuisance if they behave in a way that is disorderly, offensive, threatening, or violent, where this behaviour interferes, or is likely to interfere, with the peaceful passage through, or enjoyment of, a public place by a member of the public.

This offence is outlined in Section 6 of the Summary Offences Act 2005.

The purpose of this offence is to ensure that members of the public can lawfully use public places and pass through them without the obstruction of acts of nuisance from others.

Meanwhile, as outlined in Section 6, a complaint does not need to be made about the behaviour of the person before a police officer may start a proceeding.

In Queensland, the maximum penalty for the offence of public nuisance is a fine of $1,000 or 6 months in jail.

 

Offensive Conduct in NSW

In NSW, acts of public nuisance are considered offensive conduct.

Offensive conduct refers to a broad-ranging offences that is charged when police have difficulty prosecuting a more specific offence. As such, it is an offence that is regularly charged.

In NSW, offence of offensive conduct varies from verbal abuse, to anti-social behaviour and alleged assaults. It also includes conduct that is drunken and disorderly, as well as urinating in public.

Generally speaking, offensive conduct is behaviour that would incite anger, disgust, outrage or resentment to a reasonable person’s mind or that would upset their mood.

What is Offensive Conduct in NSW?

In NSW, the offence of offensive conduct is outlined in Section 4 of the Summary Offences Act 1988 (NSW).

Anyone guilty of committing an offensive conduct offence will face a maximum penalty of 3-months jail and/or a fine of up to $660 by Judge or Magistrate in court.

Unless a section 10 dismissal or Conditional Release Oder without conviction is ordered by the court, a person who is guilty of this offence in court will receive a conviction.

Conduct will be considered offensive if a person behaves in a way that wounds the feelings, arouses anger, disgust, resentment or outrage to a reasonable person’s mind in view or hearing or near a public place (or school).

A person facing this charge will be found not guilty if the alleged conduct was simply an expression of political opinion, or the alleged behaviour would not be considered to cause a reasonable person in our current day society outrage, disgust, resentment, anger or wound a reasonable person’s feelings.

Another defence to an offensive conduct charge is where a person who is charged with this acted in self-defence.

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