Going to Court? Book Your Free First Appointment

Section 529 Crimes Act 1900
Criminal Defamation

Last updated on
Information on this page was reviewed by a specialist defence lawyer before being published. Click to read more.

Criminal Defamation is an offence under Section 529 of the Crimes Act 1900 which carries a maximum penalty of 3 years in prison.

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

  1. You published a matter that was defamatory to another living person
  2. You intended by doing so to cause serious harm to that person or to any other person or were reckless as to whether serious harm would be caused
  3. You knew the published matter was false, and
  4. You did not have a lawful excuse for your conduct

A matter is ‘defamatory’ if:

  1. It was published, which means communicated in any way to at least one other person
  2. It identified a person, whether directly or indirectly, and
  3. It had a defamatory meaning, which means it was likely to:
  • cause the person to be shunned, shamed or avoided by others;
  • adversely affect the reputation of the person in the minds of right-thinking members of society; or
  • damage the person’s professional reputation by suggesting a lack of qualifications, skills, knowledge, capacity, judgment or efficiency in the person’s trade, business or profession

‘Lawful excuses’ are:

  1. Justification, which is where the defamatory material is substantially true
  2. Contextual truth, where imputations arising from the context of the material are substantially true
  3. Absolute privilege, where the material is published in the course of the proceedings of a parliamentary body
  4. Public documents, where the publication is a fair copy, summary or extract of a public document
  5. Fair reporting of proceedings of public concern, where the matter was of public concern and was already published
  6. Qualified privilege, where the information was provided to a person who has an interest in a subject and was provided to inform the person about the subject and providing the information was reasonable in the circumstances
  7. Honest opinion, where the publication was an honest opinion rather than a statement of fact and related to a matter of public interest and was based on proper material
  8. Innocent dissemination, where the person was an employee or agent of the primary publisher and did not know he or she was publishing defamatory material, and this was not due to his or her negligence, and
  9. Triviality, where the publication was unlikely to cause harm.

If you are able to raise evidence of a lawful excuse, the onus is on the prosecution must then prove beyond reasonable doubt that the excuse does not apply, if the prosecution is unable to do this you must be found not guilty.

Other defences to the charge include:

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

For expert advice and outstanding representation from Australia’s Most Awarded Criminal Defence Firm, call Sydney Criminal Lawyers® today on (02) 9261 8881 and let our experienced defence team help you.

The Legislation

Section 529 of the Crimes Act 1900 deals with the offence of ‘Criminal Defamation’ and reads as follows:

529 Criminal Defamation

(1) Common law misdemeanour of criminal libel abolished The common law misdemeanour of criminal libel remains abolished.

(2) Blasphemous, seditious or obscene libel not affected Subsection (1) does not affect the law relating to blasphemous, seditious or obscene libel.

(3) Offence of criminal defamation A person who, without lawful excuse, publishes matter defamatory of another living person (the
“victim” ):
(a) knowing the matter to be false, and
(b) with intent to cause serious harm to the victim or any other person or being reckless as to whether such harm is caused,
is guilty of an offence.

Maximum penalty: 3 years imprisonment.

(4) Lawful excuse A defendant in proceedings for an offence under this section has a lawful excuse for the publication of defamatory matter about the victim if, and only if, the defendant would, having regard only to the circumstances happening before or at the time of the publication, have had a defence for the publication if the victim had brought civil proceedings for defamation against the defendant.

(5) Prosecution to negative lawful excuse The prosecution bears the onus of negativing the existence of a lawful excuse if, and only if, evidence directed to establishing the excuse is first adduced by or on behalf of the defendant.

(6) Functions of jury On a trial before a jury for an offence under this section:
(a) the question of whether the matter complained of is capable of bearing a defamatory meaning is a question for determination by the judicial officer presiding, and
(b) the question of whether the matter complained of does bear a defamatory meaning is a question for the jury, and
(c) the jury may give a general verdict of guilty or not guilty on the issues as a whole.

(7) DPP to consent to proceedings Proceedings in a court for an offence under this section cannot be instituted without the written consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

(8) Evidence of consent of DPP In those proceedings, a consent purporting to have been signed by the Director of Public Prosecutions is, without proof of the signature, evidence of that consent.

(9) Proceedings for an offence do not bar civil proceedings The commencement of criminal proceedings for an offence under this section does not prevent:
(a) the commencement of civil proceedings for defamation against the defendant in the criminal proceedings, or
(b) the determination of the civil proceedings pending the determination of the criminal proceedings.

(10) Proof of convictions for offences If the question whether or not a person committed an offence (other than offence under this section) arises in proceedings for an offence under this section, section 42 of the Defamation Act 2005 applies to the proof of the commission of that offence in the same way as it applies to such proof in civil proceedings for defamation.

(11) Interpretation In this section,
“publish” and “defamatory” have the meanings that they have in the law of tort (as modified by the Defamation Act 2005 ) relating to defamation.

Why Choose Sydney Criminal Lawyers®?

Going to court can be nerve-racking, but having a strong and compassionate legal team behind you can make the experience significantly easier to deal with.

Here are 12 reasons to choose our multi-award winning legal team:

  1. Proven Track Record of Exceptional Results

    Sydney Criminal Lawyers® consistently achieves outcomes which are in the highest percentile of the Judicial Commission’s sentencing statistics for criminal cases.

    Our legal team devises effective case-strategies and fights hard to have cases dropped entirely or charges downgraded – saving clients the time, expense and stress of a defended hearing or jury trial.

    Where cases nevertheless proceed, our lawyers have an outstanding track record of winning defended Local Court hearings, and complex jury trials in the District and Supreme Courts.

    We also consistently win appeals in the District and Supreme Courts (including the NSWCCA) after clients have received unsatisfactory results with other law firms in the lower courts.We are one of the few firms to achieve successful criminal law appeals in the High Court of Australia.

    Where our clients wish to plead guilty, we frequently achieve ‘dismissals’ and ‘non convictions’ in cases where other lawyers have advised there is no chance of doing so.

  2. Highest Level of Client Satisfaction

    We have the best and most comprehensive client review record of any law firm in Australia.

    Regular communication, accessibility and quality service are our team’s highest priorities.

    We are committed to thoroughly explaining all steps involved in the criminal law process, providing regular updates throughout the proceedings, and making ourselves accessible and responsive.

    We are passionate about providing an exceptional level of service to our clients, and we fight hard to achieve optimal results in the shortest period of time.

  3. Australia’s Most Awarded Criminal Law Firm

    We have received more awards and accolades than any other criminal law firm in Australia. Our team has been awarded “Criminal Defence Firm of the Year in Australia” in a number of prestigious and competitive awards programs for several years running.

    The awards recognise our exceptional track record of results, our outstanding client service, the high level of satisfaction we achieve, the affordability of our services and our overall excellence.

  4. Fixed Fees

    We want our clients to know exactly how much their cases will cost from the very start. That’s why we were the first criminal law firm in Australia to publish ‘fixed fees’, back in 2004.

    We offer fixed fees for most types of criminal cases and services.Our fixed fees apply to a range of Local Court cases such as drink driving, drug possession, fraud, common assault and AVOs, and also specific services such as prison visits, bail applications, appeals and defended hearings.

    Unlike many other law firms, our fixed fees are published on our website – which ensures transparency and certainty.

  5. Free First Appointment

    For those who are going to court, we offer a free first conference of up to an hour with one of our Senior Criminal Defence Lawyers.

    We also offer a free first conference to those who have received an unsatisfactory result after being represented in court by another law firm, or after representing themselves, and wish to appeal.

  6. Specialist Lawyer Guarantee

    We guarantee that only lawyers with substantial criminal defence experience will work on your case and appear for you in court.

    This ensures our clients receive the highest quality representation from an experienced, specialist criminal lawyer.

  7. All NSW Courts

    From Bombala to Broken Hill, our lawyers appear in courts throughout New South Wales – and across Australia for Commonwealth cases.

    And we offer fixed fees for most criminal and traffic law cases throughout the state.

  8. Accredited Specialists

    Our entire firm is exclusively dedicated to criminal law – which makes us true specialists.

    All of our lawyers have years of experience representing clients in criminal cases, and our principal has been certified by the Law Society of NSW as an Accredited Criminal Law Specialist since 2005.

    An ‘Accredited Specialist’ is a lawyer who has practised for at least 5 years in a particular field of law (such as criminal law), has passed a rigorous assessment process conducted by the Law Society of NSW, and has been selected by the Specialist Accreditation Committee of the Law Society as an expert in the field.

    Accredited Specialists are required to undertake more training each year than other lawyers and must be successful in having their accreditation renewed every year. Specialist Accreditation is the mark of a true specialist.

    Our firm’s specialist experience ensures you receive the best possible result, whatever your criminal law case may be.

  9. Results-Focused Law Firm

    Our team is passionate about achieving results, and unlike many other law firms, our lawyers do not have monthly financial ‘budgets’ to meet.

    The absence of budgets means our lawyers are entirely focused on achieving optimal results in the shortest space of time; whether by getting charges dropped or downgraded at an early stage or having cases ‘thrown out of court’.

    Not having budgets also means our lawyers are not under pressure to engage in unscrupulous practices such as unnecessarily adjourning cases or ‘overcharging’ clients – which, sadly, is a common complaint against many other lawyers and law firms.

    No budgets encourages regular consultation between lawyers within the firm – promoting an ‘open door’, team environment where lawyers bounce ideas off one another, formulate case strategy together and benefit from each other’s specialised experience, methods, techniques and insights.

    The result is a firm which delivers optimal outcomes in the shortest time periods, at the least expense and stress to our clients.

  10. Team of Lawyers Behind You

    Our clients benefit from the pool of knowledge that only an extensive team of experienced criminal defence lawyers can provide.

    Our lawyers regularly consult one another to stay ‘ahead of the pack’ in the ever-changing field of criminal law – constantly devising, refining and implementing specialised techniques which ensure our clients achieve the best possible outcomes.

    A team approach is particularly important when it comes to serious criminal cases such as murder, commercial drug cases, serious and sexual assaults, large-scale fraud, robbery and other ‘indictable’ cases.

    In such matters, clients reap the benefits of several lawyers devising and executing case strategies which maximise the chances of having cases dropped or downgraded at an early stage, or ‘thrown out of court’ – often saving clients a great deal of cost, time and anxiety.

  11. Familiar with Magistrates and Judges

    Each of our lawyers appears in court on a daily basis, and has done so for years. We have therefore been able to develop an understanding of, and rapport with, magistrates and judges in Sydney and indeed across the state.

    Our team’s extensive experience before the courts ensures your case is tailored to the specific nuances of individual judicial officers, maximising the likelihood of a favourable result.

  12. Convenience

    We have offices in locations across the Sydney Metropolitan Area and beyond, including:

    We offer free parking at our Sydney CBD offices, and all of our offices are close to train stations and bus terminals.

    For those who are unable to attend our offices, we offer conferences by telephone, Skye and FaceTime anywhere around the world.

    If you are going to court and wish to arrange a free first consultation, call our 24 hour hotline on (02) 9261 8881 or send us an email at info@sydneycriminallawyers.com.au.

Recent Articles

Related Videos

Going to Court? Call For Your Free First Appointment

Main Menu

Follow Us

Ask Our AI Assistant

Disclaimer: Response is AI generated general advice only and should not be relied upon without consulting a lawyer.

Saved Articles & Pages


Preferred date for conference
Briefly describe your situation:
Do you have a court date?

Your Review & Rating * mandatory fields

Review Text *
Rating (optional)