The Criminal Offence of Hindering an Investigation in NSW

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Hindering an investigation

A New South Wales woman pleaded guilty to criminal charges following a vehicle collision at Yanco near Leeton in the Riverina region of New South Wales on 4 April 2023, which resulted in the death of a mother and her three boys aged between 10 and 12 years.

51-year old Elizabeth Chattaway pleaded guilty in Griffith Local Court to one count each of not disclosing the identity of a driver or passenger and hindering an investigation.

According to agreed facts tendered in court, the collision was preceded by a domestic argument at a fast food outlet. 

O the fatal evening, 36-year old Tanya Murphy’s car crossed a concrete bridge before it left the road, collided with a concrete telephone pole and rolled on its roof into an irrigation channel, resulting in the death of her and her three of her children.

The statement of facts outlined that Ms Murphy’s car was being followed “at a distance” by a car carrying three people – her partner, his mother and another passenger. 

Ms Chattaway was originally charged with predatory driving, but those charges were withdrawn due to insifficient evidence.

She pleaded guilty to not disclose and hindering charges for not stopping at the scene and later lying to police in order to protect the identity of a person in the car. 

She is currently on bail and due to be sentenced next month. 

The offence of hindering an investigation in New South Wales

Hindering an investigation is an offence under section 315 of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) which carries a maximum penalty of 7 years in prison.

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

  1. You did any thing to hinder in any way:

(a) The investigation of a serious indictable offence committed by another, or

(b) the discovery of evidence about a serious indictable offence committed by another, or

(c) the arrest of another who committed a serious indictable offence, and

  1. You did so intentionally

A ‘serious indictable offence’ is one that carries a maximum penalty of at least 5 years in prison, which includes:

  1. Serious assaults such as assault occasioning actual bodily harm,
  2. Drug manufacture and supply, and
  3. Larceny, fraud and most other dishonesty offences.

A serious indictable offence is deemed to have been committed if an officer engaged in detecting and investigating offenders suspects on reasonable grounds that such an offence has been committed.

Examples of hindering an investigation may include:

  1. Taking steps to hide information relating to a serious offence,
  2. Lying to police to divert their investigations away from an offender, and
  3. Maintaining a false statement to cover up for an offender.

It is not an offence against the section to merely refuse or fail to divulge information.

Legal defences

Self-defence, duress and necessity are legal defences to the hindering an investigation.

In the event evidence of such a defence is raised, the onus then shifts to the prosecution who are required to disprove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defence applies.

You are entitled to an acquittal – in other words, a finding of not guilty, if the prosecution is unable to do this.

Going to court?

If you have been charged with an offence against public justice such as hindering an investigation, call Sydney Criminal Lawyers anytime on (02) 9261 8881 to arrange a free first conference with an experienced criminal defence lawyer who will assess your situation, advise you of your options and the best way forward, and fight for the optimal outcome.

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Sonia Hickey

Sonia Hickey is a freelance writer, magazine journalist, and owner of 'Woman with Words'. She has a strong interest in social justice and is a member of the Sydney Criminal Lawyers® content team. Sonia is the winner of the Mondaq Thought Leadership Awards, Spring 2022.
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®.

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