Fortune Telling and the Law

There are many aspects of live that people do not think relate to criminal offences. One of those things is fortune telling. While the act of fortune telling is not actually an offence in Australia, there have been criminal cases surrounding the profession. These also cover other areas, where anything similar to using “mysticism” or “divination” as part of a business occurs.

It would please many people if fortune telling were illegal. After all, there is no evidence that these businesses are legitimate. It also raises questions about what “misleading” exactly is. Can a fortune teller be criminally charged for giving a prediction that turns out to be untrue? Looking at the laws, this might seem to be the case. However, the legal system is more concerned with people using their spiritual businesses to defraud and take advantage of people, in more malicious ways.

Is Fortune Telling Legal?

Fortune telling is a criminal offence only when the person doing the telling plans on misleading people as part of a crime. This is how the law goes in South Australia and the Northern Territory at least.  Anyone who uses a spiritualistic method to defraud someone is considered to be breaking the law in these places. This is demonstrated in the case below.

It might be because there is no firm data surrounding this type of spiritual transaction, but there have been few cases of illegal fortune telling. There used to be more cases, in the 20th century, but they have since become a rare occurrence. A Victorian case in 1996 involved someone using a fortune telling business to trick people into handing over their valuables. The basic idea of the accused was to tell people that their belongings were tainted by evil. They were then asked to hand the items over for some type of cleansing. Instead of doing so, or even pretending to, the accused simply kept the goods. They took nearly $400,000 worth of jewelry and money. However, they were later convicted of theft, and given jail time.

The above case relates more to theft than fortune telling. However, there really is no law that stops people from using “spiritual” methods to give people advice or to predict their future. It only becomes a criminal matter when the act is used to do something else illegal, by misleading others.

Testimony of Fortune Tellers

Fortune tellers and astrologers cannot testify in court in a professional manner. While they can certainly give testimony in other capacities, their predictions, etc., cannot be used as evidence in a legal manner. It might be a nice idea, especially as far as believers of these practices are concerned. However, there just isn’t any legal grounds to believe that what fortune tellers predict is true. As far as the law is concerned, people cannot see the future, so fortune telling is not a legitimate practice. However, this does not stop the courts from allowing people to go on selling fortunes to others.