In Australia, it is illegal to record a phone call without consent. In most cases, this is a punishable offence. However, there are a few exceptions. For example, police and security agencies can record phone calls as part of their investigations. This has been found to be necessary in order to catch the criminals before they have an opportunity to harm innocent people. In addition, journalists can also legally record phone calls as part of their work if they have consent from the person on the other side of the line. With this information, should it be legal for Australians to record phone calls?
The legality of recording phone calls
Under the Crimes Act 1961 and the criminal code in Victoria, using a mobile phone or similar device to record a phone call is technically not illegal if you record the conversation in a public place such as a cafe or public transport. However, private homes and offices are not exempt from the laws. You could potentially be charged with using a private residence for this purpose. The Commonwealth legislation under the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979 criminalises the use of any device that can record a telephone conversation.
When can you record a phone call?
There is no law requiring a person to seek permission from a person on the other end of a phone call before recording that call. But if you are going to make the recording for your own personal use, you should apply for a Consent for Recording Telephone Call, which is a sworn statement that you have received the other person’s permission to make the recording and that it won’t be distributed. If you are recording a phone call in a professional capacity (such as a journalist, private investigator, or any other businessperson), you must apply to the telecommunications industry body responsible for operating the communications networks, as well as the police if there are security concerns, for a Consent for Recording Telephone Call. This consent will cover each person on the call.
Recording phone conversations for evidence
Generally, in the state of Victoria, it is an offence to intercept a telephone call and to record or disseminate the conversation, even if the person has been told that the conversation is being recorded. Recordings of telephone conversations can attract a maximum of 10 years imprisonment, and the use of the device to listen to a conversation without the other party’s knowledge can attract a maximum of 7 years in prison. If the recording is discovered, the person who committed the offence is subject to arrest and prosecution. In the Northern Territory, it is an offence to intercept a telephone call and to record or disseminate the conversation, even if the person has been told that the conversation is being recorded.
In general, it is difficult to avoid recording telephone calls in Australia. So, unless you are carrying out a very sensitive investigation (or secretly filming a celebrity, politician or other public figure) the likelihood is that you’ll record a phone call at some point. If you’re seeking to record a phone call, you should make sure that the other party has been informed of this before you begin recording or find another way to contact them about it. Otherwise, your recording will be illegal and could subject you to criminal charges.