Hoax bomb threat a serious matter
Name: Sanjay Korat
Date of Judgment: 5 February 2021
Court: NSW District Court
Partner Agency: Australian Federal Police
Summary of charges:
Mr Sanjay Korat pleaded guilty to, and was sentenced for, the following offence:
- 1 x Use carriage service for hoax threat, contrary to s474.16 of the Criminal Code (Cth).
The offender made two telephone calls from Newcastle, New South Wales – one to Mumbai International Airport Limited and the other to Singapore Airlines Ground Handling Agency in India. The purpose of the calls was to induce the false belief that an explosive had been left on a Singapore Airlines flight. The flight, at the time, had left Mumbai, India, and was mid-flight en route to Singapore.
The hoax bomb threat was treated with due seriousness including scrambling two F16C/D fighter jets to accompany the flight into Changi Airport in Singapore and security personnel subjecting the airplane and all cargo to additional security scanning upon landing.
This case was a serious example of the offence provision of ‘use carriage service for hoax threat’ under s474.16 of the Criminal Code (Cth). Most of the cases prosecuted by the CDPP under this offence provision are prosecuted in the lower courts. The seriousness of this case led the CDPP to prosecuting this charge on indictment in the District Court.
The matter was assisted greatly by the AFP who worked closely with Singapore Airlines and the Singaporean Government and was able to obtain significant evidence through Mutual Assistance processes.
The outcome balances multiple stakeholder interests including the interests of accused persons with the need to protect the community and to deter similar offending from occurring in future. It also demonstrates the seriousness of hoax bomb threats in light of contemporary world events.
The sentence hearing in this matter spanned two days. The Crown’s ultimate submission was that the only appropriate sentence was a term of imprisonment with a period of full-time custody to serve. It was a complicated sentence hearing with limited comparatives for guidance and only one appellate authority identified in relation to the offence provision.
The presiding Judge afforded a 25% discount for the utilitarian value of the offender’s plea of guilty, and the offender was convicted and sentenced to a term of imprisonment of two years to commence from 4 February 2021, and to be released after serving one year in custody on a Recognizance Release Order pursuant to s20(1)(b) Crimes Act (Cth), in the sum of $5,000, with condition to be of good behaviour for a period of three years commencing on 3 February 2022.
During the lengthy hearing a number of medical reports were tendered by the representatives of the offender in relation to various alcohol addiction issues. The CDPP addressed the court’s questions regarding the application of self-induced intoxication to Commonwealth matters after it was suggested that the offender’s conduct may be mitigated by evidence, although limited and conflicting, that the offender may have been intoxicated during the time of his conduct.
There were certain factors accepted by the court that related to the offender’s potential hardship in custody, including the language and cultural difficulties likely to be faced coming from India, and his limited family presence in Australia.
The presiding judge determined that this offender’s conduct was objectively more serious than all other cases listed in the comparative cases filed by the Crown. This finding was largely due to the impact of the threat, and His Honour took judicial notice of the economic, logistical and personal toll of the offender’s conduct. Of note His Honour found that the passenger announcement that was made onboard the flight to alert all passengers and crew of the bomb threat would have been deeply worrying and likely caused significant distress and anxiety for the passengers onboard that flight.