The international craze of clowns scaring people has come to Adelaide, prompting a police warning about reports of pranksters in costumes wielding knives and other weapons with the intent to scare passers-by.
Sightings have been confirmed at Mt Barker, Murray Bridge, Gawler, Valley View and Fulham Gardens, but Facebook pages have also reported clown sightings in other Adelaide suburbs and South Australian regional towns.
Pranksters can potentially face up to 5 years of imprisonment for their actions due to the potential danger posed to members of the public, especially those who suffer from health conditions, or those who may even choose to retaliate. In this article, we examine the laws that Police are likely to use to protect us from the torment of these terrorising copycat clowns.
Assault is defined as an intentional or unsolicited physical force used against another individual. However, assault does not only take the form of physical contact. A prankster clown can be liable for assault by merely pointing a knife, or other weapon, in the direction of their victim. This is classified as assault if the victim reasonably believes that the clown intends to carry out their physical threat. In South Australia, the maximum penalty for an assault charge is 2 years imprisonment. However, the Assault may be classified as “Aggravated” due to the use of a weapon, resulting in an increase any likely imprisonment term to a maximum of 5 years.
Although there is no specific law in relation to intimidation, it is an offence to unlawfully stalk another person. Copycat clowns have intimidated their victims by persistently following them around, and by loitering outside their victim’s residence. These acts may constitute unlawful stalking, and the possession of a weapon whilst carrying out these acts, replica or not, may be viewed by the Courts as being seen to cause serious mental harm as well as a serious apprehension of fear in others. In South Australia, the maximum penalty for an offence of unlawful stalking is 5 years imprisonment. If a court is not satisfied that the offence of stalking has been established, a person can alternatively be charged with offensive behaviour, or assault causing fear.
Disorderly or Offensive Behaviour
Dressing up as a clown and walking into public places with the intention of causing fear, may be deemed to be disorderly or offensive behaviour. This offence may be established when a person behaves in a disorderly or offensive manner, fights with another person, or uses offensive language, in a public place. South Australian Police have reportedly adopted a zero tolerance policy for pranksters unlawfully possessing a weapon, replica or not. The maximum penalty for a charge of disorderly or offensive behaviour is a fine of $1,250.00 or imprisonment for 3 months.
What may seem as harmless fun can actually carry serious criminal consequences. Police have reportedly stated that they are taking a zero tolerance approach to any unlawful acts of clown pranksters. We would strongly urge you to consider the repercussions on others and the community before engaging in such behaviour given the serious criminal charges that you can potentially face.
If you’ve been caught clowning around, or someone you know has been terrorised by pranksters, or any individual, and are looking for more information, help or advice, please contact us.