Macquarie University
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The Terrorism (High Risk Offenders) Act 2017 (NSW): an evaluation of factors that contribute to a finding of ‘unacceptable risk’

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posted on 2023-10-26, 05:33 authored by Joanna Cheng Cheng Wong

This thesis considers how the Supreme Court determines whether an offender poses an unacceptable risk of committing a serious terrorism offence under the New South Wales’ Terrorism (High Risk Offenders) Act 2017 (NSW). It is the first systemic scholarly investigation of the controversial legislation, and as such will provide foundational academic insight into the use of post-sentence detention and supervision laws to prevent terrorism risk. A doctrinal approach was used to analyse twenty-five cases determined under the legislation. First, the cases were coded against a framework of factors. The factors were then categorised into levels of relevance and determinative value based on a textual analysis of the Court’s reasons. The results revealed that there were several factors that were considered by the Court to be of high relevance but only two factors were highly determinative in a positive finding of unacceptable risk. The views of court appointed experts and an offender’s association with violent extremists were determinative of a finding of unacceptable risk. In contrast, an offender’s ideology and a diagnosis of mental illness yielded mixed results. The research provides insight into the operation of the THRO Act, its context within Australian counter terrorism legislation and the growth of preventive detention schemes, and how the legislation is applied in court; thus creating a foundational body of knowledge that can be expanded upon by subsequent scholars and evaluators.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Introduction -- Chapter 2: Literature review -- Chapter 3: Methodology -- Chapter 4: Analysis of the ‘unacceptable risk’ test using NVivo -- Chapter 5: Textual analysis of the ‘unacceptable risk’ test -- Chapter 6: Discussion -- References -- Appendices

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis MRes


Master of Research

Department, Centre or School

Department of Security Studies and Criminology

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Julian Droogan

Additional Supervisor 1

Andrew Burke


Copyright: The Author Copyright disclaimer:






156 pages

Former Identifiers

AMIS ID: 256319