Offensive Language and Obscene Conduct are NSW Crimes

Information on this page was reviewed by a specialist defence lawyer before being published. Click to read more.
Angry Indian man

Are you facing a charge of obscene exposure or offensive conduct?

These offences are surprisingly common, and although they are generally not considered severe, you can still end up with a criminal record and a fine, or in some cases a prison sentence.

If you have been charged with any criminal offence it is important to seek legal representation from experienced criminal lawyers who can help you get a positive outcome.

There are a number of different criminal offences which can be categorised as offensive or obscene conduct. NSW crimes that fall into this definition include:

  • Obscene exposure
  • Using offensive language near or within hearing of a public place or school
  • Offensive conduct near or within hearing of a public place or school

If you are found guilty of any of these offences, you could face a hefty fine and even a prison sentence.

There are a number of other penalties you could face, including community service, good behaviour bond and home detention.

Obscene conduct and offensive language are summary offences, which means that the matter will be dealt with by a magistrate in the local court rather than the district or supreme court.

What is the difference between offensive and obscene conduct?

Offensive conduct is treated differently to offences that have an obscene nature, such as obscene exposure.

Obscene exposure is a very specific offence where a person wilfully and obscenely exposes themselves in a public place or within view of a school.

Offensive conduct is where a person conducts themselves in a manner that is considered to be ‘offensive’ according to the law.

As community standards change over time, the definition of what constitutes offensive behaviour can also vary.

Offensive behaviour is often taken as anything that would offend a ‘reasonable’ person.

Offensive conduct can be an act or behaviour, or it can be using offensive language in a public place or in close proximity to a school.

Language crimes, such as using offensive language, can relate to swearing or they can mean using language that is considered to be racist, sexually explicit or otherwise offensive in a public place or within hearing of a school.

What are the defences to obscene exposure and offensive behaviour?

Although they are considered summary offences, you could still face penalties if you are found guilty of offensive behaviour or obscene conduct so it is important to take any charges seriously.

There are a few defences that may apply in your situation, and your criminal defence lawyer can advise you what is appropriate. Some of the possible defences to these charges include:

  • Having a reasonable excuse or reason to use certain language or behave in an allegedly offensive manner.
  • The manner that you conducted yourself in was not what a reasonable person would consider offensive.
  • If you were not the person who committed the offence.
  • The offence was not committed within view or hearing of a public place or school.

If there were any extenuating circumstances that may have contributed to the offence, they will be taken into consideration by the magistrate.

Providing character references and demonstrating a history of good behaviour may also help to strengthen your defence and help ensure a more positive outcome.

Last updated on

Receive all of our articles weekly


Ugur Nedim

Ugur Nedim

Ugur Nedim is an Accredited Criminal Law Specialist with 25 years of experience as a Criminal Defence Lawyer. He is the Principal of Sydney Criminal Lawyers®.

Your Opinion Matters