Trespassing on farming land was a hot topic last year, which resulted in the state government amending the Summary Offences Act 1953 to include tougher penalties for trespassers.
The issue has come back into the spotlight to a degree, with a 22 year old Qld woman convicted by the Toowoomba Magistrates Court after pleading guilty to trespass offences arising from entering a piggery and poultry farm without approval. In addition to having a conviction recorded, she was ordered to complete 50 hours of community service.
It will be interesting to see how the courts in SA deal with farm trespass in the future, given the potential penalties are now significant.
The changes to the Summary Offences Act 1953 made it a specific offence when a person trespasses onto primary production land (as opposed to land more generally).
The penalties for trespass onto primary production land are broken down into those committed in aggravated and non-aggravated circumstances. The maximum penalty for a non-aggravated offence is $5000 or six months' imprisonment, while the maximum penalty for an aggravated offence is a $10,000 fine or 12 months' imprisonment.
An offence is committed in aggravated circumstances where:
- There is actual or attempted interference with primary production activities
- The trespass is committed by two or more people
- The person does anything that places the safety of a person on the premises at serious risk
- The person does anything that gives rise to a risk of spread of disease or contamination
- The person does intentionally or recklessly indifferently cause damage to an activity associated with primary production.
Primary production activities cover a wide range of activities, including agricultural, pastoral, viticultural, forestry and commercial fishing activities.
A further significant change is that where a person enters or is on primary production land for an unlawful purpose or without lawful excuse, and the circumstances are aggravated, the person will be liable to pay compensation to a person for injury, loss or damage resulting from the offence. This act also introduces an offence, with a maximum penalty of $1500, where someone interferes with a gate or fence.
It is also worth noting that the federal government has supported the tougher laws relating to farm trespass by amending the Criminal Code Act 1995. These amendments impose penalties for those who encourage others, via mediums such as websites or social media, to trespass onto farms.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.