Intentional espionage on behalf of foreign principal is an offence under section 91.8(1) of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth), which carries a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison.
To establish the offence, the prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt that:
- You dealt with information or an article
- You intended by your conduct to prejudice Australia’s national security, or to advantage the national security of a foreign country
- You were reckless as to whether your conduct, or the conduct of another person, involved the commission of an espionage offence, and
- Your conduct was on behalf of, or in collaboration with, a foreign principal or a person acting on behalf of a foreign principal.
To ‘deal with’ includes to receive, obtain, collect, possess, make a record, copy, alter, conceal, communicate, publish or make available.
To ‘make available’ includes to:
- Place it somewhere it can be accessed by another person
- Give it to an intermediary to give to an intended recipient, or
- Describe how to obtain or facilitate access to it.
An ‘article’ includes anything, substance or material.
‘National security’ is defined as:
- Defence of the country
- Protection of the country or part thereof
- Protection of the country’s people
- Protection of the integrity of the country’s territory or borders from serious threats
- Carrying out the country’s responsibilities towards any other country in terms of protecting territory or borders, or preventing espionage, sabotage, terrorism or political violence against that country
- The country’s political, military or economic relations with another country
- Protection against espionage, sabotage, terrorism or political violence in Australia
- Protection against obstruction, hinderance or interference with the defence force, or
- Foreign interference.
‘Prejudice’ does not include embarrassment alone.
‘Advantage’ does not include conduct that benefits Australia at least as much as the foreign country.
‘Espionage offences’ include:
Section 91.1(1) – Intentionally providing national security information to foreign principal
Section 91.2 – intentionally providing information to a foreign principal, and
Section 91.3 – Providing security classified information
A ‘foreign principal’ is defined as:
- A foreign government principal
- A foreign political organisation
- A public international organisation
- A terrorist organisation, or
- An entity or organisation owned, directed or controlled by a foreign principal/s.
You are not guilty of the offence if you are able to establish, ‘on the balance of probabilities’ that you dealt with the information or article:
- In accordance with a law of the Commonwealth
- In accordance with an arrangement or agreement to which the Commonwealth is a party and which allows for the exchange of information or articles
- In your capacity as a public official, or
- In circumstances where the information or article has already been communicated or made available to the public with the authority of the Commonwealth.
Duress and self-defence are also defences to the charge.