The Guides to Social Policy Law is a collection of publications designed to assist decision makers administering social policy law. The information contained in this publication is intended only as a guide to social security payments. The information is accurate as at the date listed at the bottom of the page, but may be subject to change. To discuss individual circumstances please contact Services Australia.

6.8.7 Prosecution of offences


The Registrar can take action to prosecute people who commit offences under the child support legislation.

Act references

Crimes Act 1914 section 4AA, section 4AB, section 4B, section 15B

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Focus for prosecution

Potential offences under child support legislation, or other Commonwealth legislation, may be investigated. The investigation of offences and the prosecution action that the Registrar takes has to reflect the reality that the resources available are finite. The Registrar will concentrate on the cases that deserve prosecution.

In deciding whether to pursue prosecution the Registrar will consider:

  • the seriousness of the alleged offence (not just in dollar terms)
  • any other means of enforcement available
  • the impact of the alleged offence, and
  • whether the alleged offence involves deliberate evasion or obstruction.

A brief of evidence can then be referred to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions who is responsible for deciding whether the Commonwealth should take prosecution action.

Time limits for prosecution

Prosecution of an offence against a Commonwealth law must be commenced (Crimes Act section 15B):

  • In the case of an individual

    • if the maximum penalty is a gaol term of more than 6 months in the case of a first conviction, at any time, or
    • in all other cases, a summons must be signed within 12 months of the offence being committed.
  • In the case of a body corporate
    • if the maximum penalty is a fine of more than 150 penalty units in the case of a first conviction, at any time, or
    • in all other cases, a summons must be signed within 12 months of the offence being committed.


Some of the penalties imposed for offences are described in terms of 'penalty units'. Each penalty unit is equal to $222 (Crimes Act section 4AA).

If the penalty for an offence is a gaol term and there is no monetary penalty imposed (e.g. failing to comply with a notice under CSA Act section 161) a court that has convicted a 'natural' person (i.e. not a company) can impose a fine instead of or in addition to, imprisonment (Crimes Act section 4B).

Unless specified, a court can impose a fine on a body corporate of up to 5 times greater than the fine that can be imposed on an individual (Crimes Act section 4B).


Offences under child support legislation are not indictable offences (i.e. offences with a maximum penalty of a gaol term of more than 12 months) and are tried summarily by a summons to attend a Magistrate's Court and are heard by a magistrate without a jury.

The evidence presented must convince the magistrate. This means that the offence must be broken down into its elements and each element must be proved for the offence to be established.

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