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Unauthorised impairment of an electronic communication is an offence under section 477.3 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth), which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

To establish the offence, the prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt that:

  1. You caused the unauthorised impairment of any electronic communication to or from a computer, and
  2. You knew the impairment was unauthorised.

You caused an impairment if you substantially contributed to it.

The impairment was not unauthorised merely because you had an ulterior purpose for causing it.

You were authorised to access, modify or impair the data if this was done:

  1. Under a warrant pursuant to a law of the Commonwealth, a State or a Territory
  2. Under an emergency authorisation pursuant to the Surveillance Devices Act 2004 or under a law of a State or Territory to similar effect
  3. Under a tracking device authorisation given under section 39 of the Surveillance Devices Act 2004, or
  4. Pursuant to a technical assistance request or notice, or a technical capability notice.

An ‘electronic communication’is one that occurs by means of guided or unguided electromagnetic energy, which includes telephone calls, text messages and internet transmissions.

The ‘impairment of electronic communication to or from a computer’ includes:

  1. The prevention of any such communication, and
  2. The impairment of any such communication on an electronic link or network used by the computer, but it does not include the mere interception of any such communication.

Duress is a defence to the charge.