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Stealing Offences in the Northern Territory (NT)

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Australian National Character Check (ANCC) makes every effort to provide updated and accurate information to its customers. However due to the continuously changing nature of legislations for the Commonwealth and various States and Territories, it is inevitable that some information may not be up to date. The information on the website is general information only. The contents on the website do not constitute legal or professional advice and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal or professional advice. While we endeavour to keep the information up to date and correct, we make no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, about the completeness, suitability, accuracy or availability with respect to the information.

The Criminal Code Act 1983 stipulates the details, punishments, legal proceedings for all stealing and theft-related offences in the Northern Territory.

What is a stealing offence?

Broadly, stealing is defined as an unlawful act to appropriate the property of another with the intention to;

  • Deprive the person of it,
  • Sell it or exchange it for a proceed,
  • Keep/convert it or intend to keep it,
  • Deface/Change the face of the property.

However, it does not include the situation where;

A person with the reasonable belief that such property is lost and the owner cannot be discovered.

What is categorized as an item capable of being stolen

  1. Every inanimate thing, whatever is the property of any person, and which is movable, is capable of being stolen.
  2. Every inanimate thing which the property of any person is and is capable of being movable. It also includes; items capable of being stolen as soon as it becomes movable, although it is made movable to steal it.
  3. Every tame animal, whether tame by nature or wild by nature and tamed, which is;
    1. The property of any person,
    2. Capable of being stolen.

A person cannot steal land or things forming part of a landed property under the law, except;

  1. Where they have the legal authority to sell or dispose of land belonging to another, and he appropriates the land or anything forming part of it,
  2. Where they are not in possession of the land, and he converts anything forming part of the land by severing it or causing it to be severed,
  3. Where, being in possession of the land under a tenancy or holding over after a tenancy, he appropriates the whole or part of any fixture or structure let to be used with the land.

If proven guilty in an NT court, stealing offences will show up on an individual's Nationally Coordinated Criminal History Check result in the NT.

Who is the owner of a property?

Where a person receives properties on behalf of another:

A property held in trust belongs to the original person to whom it was directed or issued. It includes any person having a right to enforce trust.

An intention to defeat the trust is considered as an intention to deprive the property of any person having that right.

Where a person receives properties under obligation

If a person receives property from the original owner, with an obligation, the property remains the possession of the original owner. it remains their property until the obligation is completed.

Where a person obtains property through another’s mistake

They must make restoration in whole or in part of the property or its proceeds or values. The property or proceeds shall be regarded, as against the person who obtained it, as belonging to the person entitled to restoration and an intention not to make restoration.

Property belonging to a corporation

The property remains the sole possession of the corporation notwithstanding that there is a vacancy or opening in the corporation.

Punishments for Stealing Offences

The Criminal Code Act 1983 stipulates maximum penalties for a stealing offence. A person or party guilty of a stealing offence will receive an imprisonment term of up to 7 years.

If the thing stolen is a testamentary instrument, whether the testator is living or dead, or if the thing stolen has a value of $100,000 or more, the offender is liable to imprisonment for up to 14 years.

Unlawful taking of an aircraft

A person is guilty of stealing offences relating to aircraft if they;

  1. Directly or indirectly takes control of an aircraft from the pilot.

The NT Criminal Code stipulates maximum penalties of a 7 years imprisonment

  1. If another person not being an accomplice of the offender is on board the aircraft during the offence, the offender is liable to imprisonment for 14 years.
  2. If the offender immediately before, at or immediately after the time of taking such control;
  • uses or threatens to use violence to any person or property to take control of the aircraft or,
  • to prevent or overcome resistance to such control being taken, or
  • is armed with a firearm or other dangerous or offensive weapon, or
  • is in company with one or more persons, he is liable to imprisonment for life.

Unlawful use of aircraft

Any person who unlawfully uses an aircraft is guilty of a crime and is liable to imprisonment for 7 years.

Unlawful use of vessel, motor vehicle, caravan or trailer

Any person who unlawfully uses a vessel or motor vehicle, or a caravan or trailer designed to be attached to a motor vehicle, is guilty of an offence and is liable to imprisonment for 2 years.

If during or the result the course of such action,

  • The offender causes any injury to any person or any danger to the lives or safety of the public or any member of it.
  • The property unlawfully used is of the value of $20,000 or more;
  • The property unlawfully used is damaged by the offender, and the cost of repairing it is $1,000 or more,
  • Or its value as the result of his use of it is reduced by $1,000 or more;
  • The vessel, motor vehicle, caravan or trailer is taken to use it for or related to another offence
  • The whereabouts of the vessel, motor vehicle, caravan remain unknown to the lawful owner of it for 48 hours or longer,

The NT Criminal Code prescribes punishments of imprisonment for 7 years.

Stealing offences involving the moving of properties from open places

A person is guilty of a stealing offence if they unlawfully remove or replace a property the public had access to, including;

Any article displayed

  • Material Kept in it;
  • Artefact or monument displayed
  • Part VI of the Criminal Code recommends a maximum 3 years imprisonment term.

Severing with intent to steal

Any person who makes anything moveable with intent to steal is guilty of a crime and is liable to imprisonment for 3 years.

Unlawful disposition of mortgaged goods

If a person who, being the mortgagor of mortgaged goods, removes or disposes of the goods without the mortgagee's consent (legal owner) and with intent to defraud, is guilty of a crime. And the law prescribes 3 years imprisonment.

Assault with intent to steal

Section 212 of the Criminal Code Act stipulates severe punishments for offenders who assaulted a person while or during a stealing offence;

Any person who assaults another with intent to steal anything is guilty of a crime and is liable to imprisonment for 7 years.

If the offender is;

  • Armed with a firearm or
  • Any other dangerous or offensive weapon or
  • Is in company with one or
  • More person or persons or if such assault causes harm,

The Law prescribes punishments of imprisonment for 14 years.

If the offender is armed with a firearm and immediately before/after such assault he injures any person by discharging it, he is liable to imprisonment for life.

Receiving stolen property

A person will be punished for a stealing offence if they received property obtained by way of an indictable offence (stealing/robbery). It also includes purchasing a stolen item where you know the item was stolen,

It also includes receiving properties from proceeds of the stealing offence,

The criminal code stipulates the following penalties for such offence;

7 years imprisonment (14 years if the value is more than $100,000)

Stealing offences involving domestic animals

Under Section 54 of the Summary Offences Act (NT), it is an offence to steal a domestic animal such as a dog, cattle, or any other animal usually kept in a state of confinement.

This offence carries a maximum penalty of $200 in fines plus the value of the animal.

What is the Difference between a Robbery and a Stealing Offence charge?

Where the accused attempted or used violence to;

  • Steal the item or,
  • Obtain the stolen property,
  • Preserve and deny the stolen item,
  • Overcome resistance and manage the stolen properties,
  • Hinder their pursuit or investigation.

The person will be charged with a robbery offence.

These offences are more severe than a simple stealing offence. The Criminal Code stipulates the punishment of a 14 years imprisonment term.

Which court handles a stealing offence?

Under the Criminal Code (NT), all stealing offences are indictable offences. However, with the consent of both the prosecutor and defendant, the matter can be heard summarily in the Magistrate/Local court.

At the Local Court, the maximum penalty for a single charge of stealing offence is a 2 years imprisonment term

If either the defence or the prosecution elects to have the matter heard on indictment. It must be committed to the supreme and finalized there.

Defences for Stealing Offences

Stealing offences can do serious lasting damage to your criminal records. If you get a summons to appear in court for a stealing offence, you should contact the services of an experienced lawyer.

As stealing offences are sentenced with long prison terms, it is difficult to get a mitigating or diversion program or parole.

Your lawyer must explore all forms of defence such as;

  • ✔ Argue that their client stole out of self-defence,

Especially in the case of firearm theft or vehicle stealing offences

  • ✔ Argue that they stole under duress

In the case of stress, psychological pressure, drunkenness, and so on

  • ✔ Stole out of Necessity

In the case of a critically pregnant woman, an emergency prevents a future catastrophe.

  • ✔ Argue that your client thought (believed) they had the claim of right to the property.

Do stealing offences appear on a police check?

Stealing offences committed will show up on a Nationally Coordinated Criminal History Check result if there was a conviction recorded against the individual in a court of law in Australia.

You can obtain your Nationally Coordinated Criminal History Check online via the Australian National Character Check (ANCC®) website.

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