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Stealing Offences in Western Australia (WA)

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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.

Anyone convicted of stealing as defined under the Criminal Code Act 1913 (WA) commits a crime and will receive punishments as prescribed by the Act. The offence of stealing encompasses more actions and behaviours in addition to moving or converting a property.

Part VI of Section 370 of the Act defines the behaviours, actions and deeds that constitute a stealing offence, and what item can be stolen.

What is a "stealable" item under the Law?

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
    3. Excluding tame pigeons or birds are not capable of being stolen except while they are in a pigeon-house or on their owner’s land.

What are Wild animals?

An animal in this context includes all living creatures asides a human, including any aquatic living organism.

  • Wild animals are in the enjoyment of natural liberty and are not capable of "being stolen". However, their carcass can be "stolen".
  • Everything produced by, or forming part, of the body of an animal is capable of being stolen.
  • Other domesticated animals are said to be stolen if they are moved from under the control or rearing place of the owner

Wild animals are capable of being stolen if they are;

  • Moved from their confinement or,
  • While they are being pursued after escaping confinement

Otherwise they are not considered as capable of being stolen.

What is stealing?

As defined under Section 371(1); A stealing offence is committed if the accused;

  • Fraudulently takes anything capable of being stolen;
  • Fraudulently converts it for their use or any other thing;

What is a fraudulent act?

Almost all fraudulent activities are the base cases for stealing offences. Under the Act, a fraudulent conversion occurs when the accused converts a property with intent to;

  • Permanently deprive the owner of the thing or part of it;
  • Deprive any person who has a special property in the thing,
  • Use the item as a pledge or security,
  • Part with the item in such a way that it will become useless to the receiver
  • Deal with it in a way that it cannot be returned successfully/useful as at when it was received
  • In the case of money; to use it at their will and discretion, even if they intend to repay the owner afterwards.

Attempted conversion and Stealing

It is immaterial in the court whether the accused converted the property for conversion or whether it was in their possession, control at the time of conversion. It also matters less that the accused is the holder of the power of attorney or authorized to dispose of it.

Lost and Found properties and Stealing offences

If a person loses their property, and it is found by the accused - the accused is not guilty if at the time of conversion if;

  • They (accused) did not know the owner,
  • Believes on reasonable grounds that the owner cannot be discovered,

When is a stealing offence complete and irrefutable?

The act of stealing is not complete until the person taking or converting the thing actually moves it or otherwise actually deals with it by some physical activity.

Therefore, suspicion is not enough to convict a person of stealing an offence. The accuser must pro9ve that the person converted or attempted to convert the property.

What is a property/item in stealing offences?

In this context, property refers to all descriptions of real and personal items, including;

  • Money,
  • Debts,
  • Bank credits,
  • Legacies, and,
  • All deeds relating to or evidencing the title or rights to any property.
  • Other documents or testaments that gives a right to a person to own an asset or item
  • Properties that the original asset or item is exchanged for.

What is a special property?

A special property is defined as having a lien (claim) upon the property, including any right, will, proceeds or future investments on the property. It arises from the holding possession of the property.

Motor vehicles and Stealing

Section 371A considers it stealing a Motor vehicle if they unlawfully;

  • Uses another motor vehicle, or
  • Takes the motor vehicle for using it, or
  • Assumes control or drives the motor vehicle without the consent of the owner of the vehicle

“Legal” Stealing offences

Even when a property legally comes to your possession, you may still be guilty of a stealing offence if;

  • The item was unusually lesser than its worth (in case of stolen items)
  • You purchased a stolen goods
  • You tricked the seller into selling using any fake means (currency, faux properties, and so on)

Stealing for funds held under the direction

If an agent or a party receives money or other property from another person, with a direction of;

Who to give it to;

  • How to use the property,
  • When it should be disposed or used;
  • Capable of being stolen or not;

The property, and any proceeds from it, is still the property of the party that gives it until such directions are followed. And the receiver can be guilty of stealing if they go contrary to the directions or convert the property they receive.

However, if both parties already deal with each other based on a debtor, creditor basis, the receiver cannot be guilty of stealing unless the direction is in writing.

Stealing Offences in Proceeds of Sale;

If an agent or party receives a property, commodity, or other valuable with directions to;

  • Sell it;
  • Dispose of it;
  • Exchange it;

For proceeds or exchange or any other gains, to the giver (whom it was received from).

The Property and proceeds belong to the person who gives out the property for exchange. And this direction forms a legal creditor-debtor relationship between them.

The agent who receives the property is guilty of stealing if they do not follow the directions or convert/attempt to convert the property for themselves.

Stealing Offences in Money / Property received for another

If a party or agent receives money, or other properties, through any means on behalf of another person, the money is considered the property of the person on whose behalf it is received.

An exception occurs if the money is received on the terms that it shall form an item in a;

  • Debtor and creditor account, and,
  • The relation of debtor and creditor only shall exist between the parties in respect of it.

Stealing by a person who has interests in the thing stolen

The Act of stealing under the Act is equal and non-sentimental, irrespective of whether the person who converts an item capable of being stolen;

Has a special property or interest in the property;

  • ✔ Is the owner or subject to proprietary interest;
  • ✔ Is the lessee of the property being converted,
  • ✔ One of the owners or a joint owner in the thing being stolen,
  • ✔ Director or officer of the corporation or company who is the owner of it.

Penalties for stealing;

The law (Section 378 of the Act) prescribes punishments for anyone guilty of stealing property or a thing that is capable of being stolen. And where no other punishment is provided, it issues a penalty of 7 years imprisonment for an indictable offence and 2 years imprisonment for summary offence. Such offences will appear on a national police check result.

  1. If the thing stolen is a testamentary instrument, whether the testator is living or dead, the offender is liable to imprisonment for 10 years.

  2. The offender is liable to imprisonment for 8 years. If it was a motor vehicle stolen, and the offender drives it in a manner that constitutes an offence such as;
  3. The law stipulates punishments of a 10 years penalty if the offender is convicted of stealing an aircraft.

  4. The Criminal Code Act 1913 (WA) also stipulates imprisonment terms of 14 years for any of the following offences;
  • If the item is stolen from the person of another;
  • If the item is stolen in a dwelling; its value exceeds $10 000, or the offender uses or threatens to use violence to any person in the dwelling at any point;
  • If the item is stolen from any kind of vessel or vehicle or place of deposit. It includes; vehicles for the conveyance or custody of goods in transit from one place to another;
  • If the item is stolen from a vessel that is in distress or wrecked or stranded;
  • If the item is stolen from a public office in which it is deposited or kept;
  • If the offender opens a locked room, box, or other receptacles using a key or other instrument to commit the crime.

  1. If an offender is a person employed in the Public Service, and the offence includes; the property of Her Majesty or came into the offender's possession under their employment, he is liable to imprisonment for 10 years.

  2. If the offender is a director or officer of a corporation or company, and the item stolen is the property of the corporation or company, they are liable to imprisonment for 10 years.

  3. The offender will be liable for 10 years imprisonment term if the court convicts them for any of these stealing offences;
  • Property which has been received by the offender with a power of attorney for the disposition thereof;
  • Money received by the offender should be paid to a person or a purpose following a direction.
  • The whole, or part, of proceeds from the disposition of any property, which the offender received by a power of attorney.

  1. Dismembering with intent to steal; Any person who makes anything movable with intent to steal it is guilty of the stealing offence and is liable to the same punishment as if he had stolen the thing after it became movable.

Attempted Stealing and Theft

The court can convict a person of attempts to commit any action described above under Section 552 of the Code.

An attempt to commit a stealing offence includes where the offender;

  • Put/invest their intention of stealing into execution;
  • Make preparatory acts or instances for the commission of the offence;
  • The act is sufficient to establish that they committed the offence.

A person can still be guilty of attempted stealing, even if their attempt is prevented/thwarted by circumstances beyond their control. And the court will still convict them of attempted stealing offence if they aborted the initial plan.

Inciting another person to commit a steal

Section 533 of the code finds a person guilty of inciting another person to steal if they;

  • Persuaded;
  • Coerced;
  • Swayed;
  • Tricked;
  • a person to commit a stealing offence or attempted any of the acts.

Penalties for inciting a person to commit a stealing offence

The court can issue penalties of up to 7 years imprisonment for such offences. However, depending on the value of what was stolen, the period may reduce.

Which courts hear a stealing offence?

Stealing offences are treated as indictable offences irrespective of the nature of the theft. And in Western Australia, stealing offences are heard in the District Court.

However, some lesser offences of stealing can be dealt with summarily in a Magistrate court.

Some of the offences that can be dealt with summarily are;

  • Stealing offences where the maximum penalty does not exceed 7 years.
  • Attempted stealing or inciting another person to steal from another person;

Cases that are not stealing

  1. If a wild animal on enjoying its natural freedom is killed by a person;
  • The killer can claim the carcass without being guilty of stealing offences, and,
  • Any other person acting on the killer’s orders can equally claim the carcass.

However, they must claim the game before it is claimed by the owner of the land or property where the animal died.

  1. When a factor or agent pledges or gives a lien on any goods or document of title to goods entrusted to him for sale or other properties, they cannot be guilty of stealing offences. [section 372 as amended]

Do stealing offences appear on Nationally Coordinated Criminal History Checks ?

Yes, offences for stealing will show up on a person's Nationally Coordinated Criminal History Check certificate.

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

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