Armed police have shot dead a gunman in Canada who went on a shooting spree killing 21 people over the weekend. The suspect was identified a 51-year-old man who was wearing an authentic police uniform and disguised his car as a police cruiser using authentic police insignia. This allowed the suspect to travel freely to different under the radar of authentic police while confusing citizens who just thought it was an ordinary police.

Not only did the suspect go on a shooting spree, he also lit various house on fire, causing millions of damage and devastation to many. The motive behind the mass shooting and property destruction is unknown at this time.

In NSW there would be at least three separate offences in which the suspect would have been charged with below.


In NSW, impersonating police falls under Section 546D of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) below:

(1) General offence A person who impersonates a police officer is guilty of an offence.

Maximum penalty–Imprisonment for 2 years, or a fine of 100 penalty units, or both.

(2) Aggravated offence A person who, with intent to deceive–

(a) impersonates a police officer, and

(b) purports to exercise a power or function as a police officer,

is guilty of an offence.

Maximum penalty–Imprisonment for 7 years.

(3) An offence against subsection (1) is a summary offence.

(4) In this section– “impersonation” does not include conduct engaged in solely for satirical purposes.

In the case of impersonating police, two things need to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt for the more serious penalty to apply.

They include:

  • The accused person impersonated a police officer with intention to deceive; and
  • That the conduct involved special police powers.

Police have unique powers of arrest and control that they can exercise. Some special police powers include the following

  • Claiming to be a police officer to pull a car over.
  • Controlling traffic.
  • Arresting someone under suspicion of a crime and ceasing their property.
  • Give ‘move on’ directions whereby non-compliance is an offence.

This is not an exhaustive list and serves only as a guide of examples.


No doubt police would charge the suspect with murder under Section 18 of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) This is defined in the legislation as:

Murder shall be taken to have been committed where the act of the accused, or thing by him or her omitted to be done causing the death charged, was done or omitted with reckless indifference to human life, or with intent to kill or inflict grievous bodily harm upon some person, or done in an attempt to commit, or during or immediately after the commission, by the accused, or some accomplice with him or her, of a crime punishable by imprisonment for life or for 25 years.

Arguably the most serious offence out of them all, Murder carries the maximum penalty afforded by law. There police need to prove two elements beyond a reasonable doubt for murder. They are Mens Rea and Actus Rea.

Mens Rea is the mental element of murder.  This is where the prosecution must prove that the accused had the intention to kill or inflict grievous bodily harm or was reckless to human life. A serious mental illness can be a defence to murder as it may prevent the formation of intention. Read more about defences here.

Actus Reus is the actual physical voluntary act or omission.  This is also known as the ‘guilty act’.  This is the consequence of the conduct and the factors that impinge upon the mens rea of the offender.


The charge police will decide on depends on circumstances of the incident. For example whether the suspect knew that people were inside and intentionally harm them.  The initial charge of  Destroying or Damaging Property under section 195 of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) will be appropriate assuming no one was home and the suspect only wanted to destroy the properties, not harm others. This carries a penalty of up to 5 years in prison.

The more serious circumstance is when the suspect wanted to endanger the lives of those inside the homes. The likely charge is under section 198 of the Crimes Act (NSW) which states:

A person who destroys or damages property, intending by the destruction or damage to endanger the life of another, is liable to imprisonment for 25 years.

This offence is extremely serious and carries up to 25 years in prison.

National Criminal Lawyers® are highly experienced in such serious matters. If you find yourself charged by police then do not hesitate to contact us.

You can read the full article about the incident here.

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