Dishonesty and Fraud

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Dishonesty offences are a general term used by the legal profession and police officers for crimes that involve an element of dishonesty. Strictly it is not a legal word but it neatly groups together fraudulent offences, theft, false accounting, burglary etc.


Criminal fraud links together offences that involve an element of fraud such as obtaining goods or monies by deception. It is a generic term for the specific offences listed below. There is a general legal principle that the existence of fraud ‘unravels’ whatever is being relied upon. For example, a person who consents to sexual activity, which is based on some serious fraud their consent is unraveled due to that fraud. Another example would be if someone gives their property to a person they believe to be a removalist but is indeed a thief. The thief cannot then allege that the person consented to their item being stolen.

Obtain financial advantage or property by deception

The offence of obtaining property by deception is found in s.81 of the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic). Obtaining financial advantage by deception is found in s.82. An example of obtaining financial advantage by deception would be to use someone else’s credit card to buy clothes, or to use dishonesty to gain access to someone else bank account. The term financial advantage is generally given its common meaning and could include paying a valueless cheque.

Other dishonesty offences include false accounting (s.83(1)), Accident compensation fraud offences (see the Accident Compensation Act), fraud concerning barrister and solicitors (see Legal Profession Act) making or using a false document (s.83A), and various criminal and dishonesty charges to do with dishonest trust account (please see [Part 16.0].

The meaning of ‘dishonesty’

Both the offences of obtaining financial advantage or property by deception (and many others) contain an element of dishonesty within them. But what does dishonesty mean? In England, the meaning of dishonesty is given its common everyday meaning (see R v Feely [1973] QB 530). However Victorian law has undertaken a specific direction, with the question to be considered by the jury being “are you satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the accused man knew that he was acting dishonestly in doing what he/she did?” and not whether the jury would say ‘would I have acted in that way?’. This direction to the jury is called a Salvo direction, after the case of R v Salvo [1980] VR 401. In that case Justice Fullager stated that ‘dishonestly’ meant with ‘disposition to defraud’.

This direction has not been followed in other courts, and has been distinguished in the High Court for when ‘dishonesty’ is specially mentioned in the section. For a legal discussion on this issue please see paragraph 25 in R v Todo [2004] VSCA 177.

If you have been charged with any of these crimes it is imperative that you contact a lawyer. Grigor Lawyers can can advise and represent you in these matters.


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