Participation in a criminal group is deemed unlawful under Section 93T of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW), which was incorporated in 2006 as part of a series of legislative reforms aimed at criminalising gang involvement and associated conduct in response to the Cronulla riots. 

The NSW Parliament justified these measures, asserting that crimes perpetrated by gangs, including acts of violence, armed robberies, and drug trafficking, pose a significantly greater risk to community safety and welfare compared to those committed by individual offenders.


What is a Criminal group?

A criminal group refers to a gathering of three or more individuals with the aim to:

  • Gain material advantages through actions that amount to serious indictable offences, or
  • Engage in severe acts of violence, such as actions leading to loss of life or posing significant risk to life, causing serious injury (or risk thereof) to an individual, inflicting substantial damage to property jeopardising someone’s safety, or obstructing justice concerning such actions.

When is it An Offence to Participate in a Criminal Group?

Participating in a criminal group becomes illegal when you are aware, or should reasonably be aware, that the group engages in criminal activities, or when your involvement contributes to such unlawful conduct. The maximum punishment for participation is imprisonment for up to 5 years.

However, if you oversee any of the group’s actions, the maximum penalty escalates to 10 years’ imprisonment. This penalty further increases if you oversee a group and its activities are structured or ongoing.

In November of the previous year, the NSW Parliament updated the law to specify that you can still be considered as participating in a criminal group even if you are not formally a member of the group.


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Specific Offences Committed as Part of a Criminal Group

Specific offences committed within the framework of a criminal group incur distinct penalties under the law.

For instance, damaging or destroying another person’s property with the intention to partake in the criminal endeavours of such a group can result in a maximum imprisonment of 10 years. Similarly, assaulting a law enforcement officer under similar circumstances may lead to a maximum imprisonment of 14 years.

Furthermore, if you receive any form of material benefit stemming from the criminal activities of the group, with the knowledge of its criminal nature, you could face a maximum penalty of 5 years’ imprisonment.

Recruiting People to Engage in Criminal Activity

Recruiting individuals to partake in criminal activities is prohibited under Section 351A of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW). The maximum punishment for this offence is imprisonment for up to 7 years. However, if you recruit a child to engage in criminal activities, the maximum penalty rises to 10 years’ imprisonment.

Key Takeaways

Written By
Picture of James Janke
James Janke

James Janke is founding partner at Hamilton Janke Lawyers, and has more then decade of experience as a Criminal Defence Lawyer. Admitted to both the Supreme Court of New South Wales and High Court of Australia