The Offence of Participation in a Criminal Group in New South Wales

by Ugur Nedim & Sonia Hickey
Nowra court

30-year old Dylan Farrell, who once played for the St George Illawarra Dragon and South Sydney Rabbitohs, has been arrested in Nowra, south-east New South Wales.

Police say he was arrested at around 8.30am on Thursday, 8 July 2021 when they pulled over his car on Old Southern Road in South Nowra.

He was taken to Nowra Police Station when he was offered a police interview before being formally charged.

Police say he is the third man to be arrested as part of ongoing investigations into the supply of cocaine in the Nowra area. A 30-year old man from Worrigee and a 29-year old man from Sanctuary Point were arrested earlier this year.

Investigations into the alleged drug supply syndicate are continuing.

The charges

Mr Farrell has been charged with supplying a prohibited drug, cultivating a prohibited plant, hindering discovery of evidence in relation to a serious indictable offence (for allegedly destroying a phone in front of police), obstructing police, participation in a criminal group, and a number of traffic offences.

Mr Farrell spent five years playing professional rugby league before sustaining a back injury which forced his retirement in 2016.

He has been operating a fitness centre in Nowra since leaving the game and playing Group Seven Rugby League for the Nowra Bomaderry Jets and Gerringong Lions.

He was granted strict conditional bail in Nowra Local Court before which he is scheduled to reappear on 30 August 2021.

He has yet to enter pleas in relation to the charges.

He has been suspended from playing rugby league and the charges have put his business and liberty in jeopardy.

The offence of participation in a criminal group

Participation in a criminal group is an offence under section 93T of the Crimes Act 1900 which carries a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison.

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

  1. You participated in a criminal group,
  2. You knew or ought reasonably have known it was a criminal group, and
  3. You knew or ought reasonably have known that your participation contributed to the occurrence of criminal activity.

The maximum penalty increases to 10 years in prison where:

  1. You directed the activities of a criminal group,
  2. You knew it was a criminal group, and
  3. You knew or were reckless as to whether that participation contributed to the occurrence of criminal activity.

A 10 year maximum prison sentence is also applicable where:

  1. You assaulted another person, or destroyed or damaged property of another, or intended to do so, and
  2. You intended by that action to participate in a criminal group.

The penalty increases to a maximum of 14 years in prison where the person assaulted was a law enforcement officer in the execution of his or her duty.

The maximum penalty is 15 years in prison where the prosecution is able to prove that:

  1. You directed the activities of a criminal group,
  2. Those activities were organised and ongoing,
  3. You knew it was a criminal group, and
  4. You knew or were reckless as to whether that participation contributed to the occurrence of criminal activity.

What is a criminal group?

Section 93S of the Crimes Act defines a ‘criminal group’ as 3 or more people who have as their objective:

  • Obtaining material benefits from conduct that constitutes a serious indictable offence, or
  • Obtaining material benefits from conduct engaged in outside New South Wales (including outside Australia) that, if it occurred in New South Wales, would constitute a serious indictable offence, or
  • Committing serious violence offences, or
  • Engaging in conduct outside New South Wales (including outside Australia) that, if it occurred in New South Wales, would constitute a serious violence offence.

What is a serious indictable offence and a serious violence offence?

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

This includes supplying a prohibited drug.

A ‘serious violence offence’ is one punishable by at least 10 years which involves:

  1. Loss of a person’s life or serious risk thereof,
  2. Serious injury to a person or serious risk thereof,
  3. Serious damage to property where a person’s safety is endangered, or
  4. Perverting the course of relating to a case involving any of the above.

Defences to the charge

Where a legal defence to participation in a criminal group is raised on the evidence, the prosecution must then prove beyond reasonable doubt that the defence does not apply.

Legal defences to the charge include:

  1. Duress,
  2. Necessity, and
  3. Self defence.

Going to court for participating in a criminal group?

If you have been accused of participation in a criminal group, call Sydney Criminal Lawyers 24/7 on (02) 9261 8881 to arrange a free first conference with an experienced defence lawyer who will advise you of your options and the best way forward, and fight to secure the optimal outcome.

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Authors

Ugur Nedim

Ugur Nedim is an Accredited Criminal Law Specialist with over 20 years of experience as a criminal defence lawyer. He is the Principal of Sydney Criminal Lawyers®.

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.

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