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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 11 Hansard (26 September) . . Page.. 3281..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

The property damage offences appear in part 4.1 of chapter 4 and are based on a broad definition of damage so that their reach extends beyond the usual kind of damage to catch conduct that causes property to be physically lost or for a function or use of the property to be lost. Also, they depart from the more traditional approach of such offences by applying to any relevant damage, regardless of the value of the property involved.

The part begins with a general offence that applies to the damage of all kind of tangible property and by whatever means and carries a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment. This is supplemented by a range of other more specific offences, including arson, which applies a maximum penalty of 15 years imprisonment and is limited to damage to buildings and vehicles caused by fire or explosives. It is the only offence in this part that can be committed by the owner of the property damaged.

The bushfires offence reproduces the offence that is already in the Crimes Act and applies if a person causes a fire and is reckless about the fire spreading onto the property of someone else. It also carries a maximum penalty of 15 years imprisonment. The part also includes offences of threatening to cause property damage. The basic offence carries a maximum penalty of two years imprisonment and applies to threats to damage property of any kind. The more serious offence concerns threats to damage property to induce fear of death or injury and to threats to damage property by arson, both of which carry a maximum penalty of seven years imprisonment.

The most novel offences in the part is the offence of possessing a thing with the intention of damaging the property of someone else. It is designed to catch people who are preparing to commit an offence, and carries a maximum penalty of three years imprisonment.

The computer offences in part 4.2 of chapter 4 target the unlawful access, modification or impairment of computer data and the unauthorised impairment of electronic communications between computers. The first of these offences is aimed at those who, without the authorisation required, access or modify computer data or impair electronic communications between computers to commit a serious offence.

Usually, offences of this kind are limited to the use of computers to commit a fraud or some other dishonesty offence, but this provision applies to an intention to commit any serious offence that attracts a penalty of five years imprisonment or more. The maximum penalty for this offence is the same as the penalty that applies for the serious offence involved.

The next offence prohibits unauthorised modification of computer data to impair access to or the reliability of the data. The offence is aimed at a range of activities, including a person who hacks into a computer via the internet to modify programs. The penalty that applies is a maximum of 10 years imprisonment.

Provision is also made for two similar, less serious offences. The first concerns the unauthorised impairment of data held in a computer disk, credit card or other such device and carries a maximum penalty of two years imprisonment. The second involves the unauthorised access to or modification of restricted data, which applies a maximum penalty of two years imprisonment. Restricted data is defined as data restricted by some kind of access control system, such as a password.

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