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  • Stealing & Larceny Offences in New South Wales (NSW)

    Stealing offences in NSW are one of the popular offences treated in courts. A reason for this is the subsuming nature of stealing offences, and how it cuts into all aspects of a misdemeanour in NSW.

    Stealing offences in NSW are common as larceny, extortion, illegal obtaining, embezzling, theft, robbery and other offences stipulated under the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW). When hearing stealing offences in NW, the court will usually consider;

    • What was stolen,
    • The nature of the offence,
    • The value of the property that was stolen.

    If you are convicted of a stealing offence in a NSW court, the offence will show up as a disclosable court outcome (DCO) on a police record check in NSW.

    The offence will be displayed on the certificate in accordance with NSW’s spent convictions scheme.

    What is stealing?

    A stealing offence is committed where the accused moved or attempted to move a possession that is capable of being stolen. The court will not consider it a stealing offence if the item was not “capable of being stolen”.

    The Act defines stealing offence occurs when;

    • ✔ The property is “capable of being stolen’ and an item of value,
    • ✔ The item/property belonged to someone else, either by a testament or ownership
    • ✔ The person has made a move or attempted to move the item
    • ✔ Moved the item/property without the consent/agreement of the owner
    • ✔ Keeping something of value (lost) without the intention of returning it to the owner
    • ✔ Keeping a property that belonged to someone else, but in your possession as trust

    What is not considered stealing under the law?

    Not all instances of a person moving an item/property can qualify as a stealing offence. It can hardly qualify as stealing if the;

    1. Item is moved for temporal use (without the consent of the owner) unless the taker plans to use the item as theirs.
    2. If the person takes the item by mistake (and proves it), it is not considered a stealing offence. An example can be driving another person's car in a groggy/drunken state.
    3. If the person believed they were legally justified to the property at the time, it is not considered stealing. It is still not a stealing offence if their belief was wrong but didn’t know at the time.

    Offences of Fraudulent taking

    It is a fraudulent activity if you used or devised tricks, false statements, forged testament or portfolios to convert a person’s property unlawfully.

    Under the act, a fraudulent taking case occurs where;

    • ✔ The person fraudulently appropriated to their use or that of another, the property in respect of which the person is indicted, although the person did not originally take the property with any fraudulent intent, or
    • ✔ That the person had fraudulently retained the property to secure a reward for its restoration,

    the jury may return a verdict accordingly, and thereupon the person shall be liable to imprisonment for two years, or to a fine of 20 penalty units, or both.

    What is the offence of Larceny?

    Larceny is the offence of taking, tricking or defrauding a person or group from their property. It does not matter what the value of the property or the value that was stolen. However, larceny is a stealing offence that did not include violence.

    The maximum penalty that is stipulated for Larceny offences in the state of NSW is 5 years imprisonment, or 2 years if dealt with in the Local Court.

    Other stealing related offences

    • ✔ Embezzlement is the unlawful taking of property or money by someone to whom it was entrusted, such as an employee.
    • ✔ Fraud is stealing where a person obtains property from another by way of a dishonest act.
    • ✔ The term "obtaining" applies when the property or money is not physically taken but is taken in other ways.
    • ✔ Extortion is another form of blackmail and involves threats to obtain the property of another person. Each of these offences has a maximum penalty of 10 years in jail term.

    While all of these events are related to stealing offences, they have separate legislation and punishments under the law.

    Punishments for Stealing and Larceny offences

    The offence of larceny is listed under the Crimes Act of NSW. It means that irrespective of the nature of the offence, or

    • ✔ The value of the stolen property, or,
    • ✔ Whether the accused had any special interests in the stolen item;

    The incident will be considered the same in court.

    Furthermore, the offence of larceny has prescribed punishments in Section 117 of the Act.

    If the court convicts a person of larceny, except for prescribed cases, it will impose penalties up to imprisonment for five years.

    1. “Intent” to return property is no defence

    Section 118 of the Act outlines that if a person is charged for larceny, and the court discovers that the accused person intended to return or restore the property to the owner after they have converted it. It does not mean an automatic acquittal from the charge. And the court will impose a minimum punishment for such an offence.


    1. Cases where several takings proved

    If the property is stolen, was taken in little quantities or divisions, over a period, and the court adjudges it a stealing offence in their bits. However, the prosecutor cannot elect on which of the taking the court will proceed.


    1. Stealing Offences handled in a District Court

    Under the Act, the District Court judge will impose a penalty of up to 14 years imprisonment. However, if the matter is handled by a local court (Summary offence), the maximum punishment is 2-year imprisonment.

    The evidence should not have occurred more than six months in point of time from any other of such takings.

    Stealing offences in NSW are one of the popular offences treated in courts. A reason for this is the subsuming nature of stealing offences, and how it cuts into all aspects of a misdemeanour in NSW.

    Stealing offences in NSW are common as larceny, extortion, illegal obtaining, embezzling, theft, robbery and other offences stipulated under the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW). When hearing stealing offences in NW, the court will usually consider;

    • What was stolen,
    • The nature of the offence,
    • The value of the property that was stolen.

    If you are convicted of a stealing offence in a NSW court, the offence will show up as a disclosable court outcome (DCO) on a police record check in NSW.

    The offence will be displayed on the certificate in accordance with NSW’s spent convictions scheme.

    What is stealing?

    A stealing offence is committed where the accused moved or attempted to move a possession that is capable of being stolen. The court will not consider it a stealing offence if the item was not “capable of being stolen”.

    The Act defines stealing offence occurs when;

    • ✔ The property is “capable of being stolen’ and an item of value,
    • ✔ The item/property belonged to someone else, either by a testament or ownership
    • ✔ The person has made a move or attempted to move the item
    • ✔ Moved the item/property without the consent/agreement of the owner
    • ✔ Keeping something of value (lost) without the intention of returning it to the owner
    • ✔ Keeping a property that belonged to someone else, but in your possession as trust

    What is not considered stealing under the law?

    Not all instances of a person moving an item/property can qualify as a stealing offence. It can hardly qualify as stealing if the;

    1. Item is moved for temporal use (without the consent of the owner) unless the taker plans to use the item as theirs.
    2. If the person takes the item by mistake (and proves it), it is not considered a stealing offence. An example can be driving another person's car in a groggy/drunken state.
    3. If the person believed they were legally justified to the property at the time, it is not considered stealing. It is still not a stealing offence if their belief was wrong but didn’t know at the time.

    Offences of Fraudulent taking

    It is a fraudulent activity if you used or devised tricks, false statements, forged testament or portfolios to convert a person’s property unlawfully.

    Under the act, a fraudulent taking case occurs where;

    • ✔ The person fraudulently appropriated to their use or that of another, the property in respect of which the person is indicted, although the person did not originally take the property with any fraudulent intent, or
    • ✔ That the person had fraudulently retained the property to secure a reward for its restoration,

    the jury may return a verdict accordingly, and thereupon the person shall be liable to imprisonment for two years, or to a fine of 20 penalty units, or both.

    What is the offence of Larceny?

    Larceny is the offence of taking, tricking or defrauding a person or group from their property. It does not matter what the value of the property or the value that was stolen. However, larceny is a stealing offence that did not include violence.

    The maximum penalty that is stipulated for Larceny offences in the state of NSW is 5 years imprisonment, or 2 years if dealt with in the Local Court.

    Other stealing related offences

    • ✔ Embezzlement is the unlawful taking of property or money by someone to whom it was entrusted, such as an employee.
    • ✔ Fraud is stealing where a person obtains property from another by way of a dishonest act.
    • ✔ The term "obtaining" applies when the property or money is not physically taken but is taken in other ways.
    • ✔ Extortion is another form of blackmail and involves threats to obtain the property of another person. Each of these offences has a maximum penalty of 10 years in jail term.

    While all of these events are related to stealing offences, they have separate legislation and punishments under the law.

    Punishments for Stealing and Larceny offences

    The offence of larceny is listed under the Crimes Act of NSW. It means that irrespective of the nature of the offence, or

    • ✔ The value of the stolen property, or,
    • ✔ Whether the accused had any special interests in the stolen item;

    The incident will be considered the same in court.

    Furthermore, the offence of larceny has prescribed punishments in Section 117 of the Act.

    If the court convicts a person of larceny, except for prescribed cases, it will impose penalties up to imprisonment for five years.

    1. “Intent” to return property is no defence

    Section 118 of the Act outlines that if a person is charged for larceny, and the court discovers that the accused person intended to return or restore the property to the owner after they have converted it. It does not mean an automatic acquittal from the charge. And the court will impose a minimum punishment for such an offence.


    1. Cases where several takings proved

    If the property is stolen, was taken in little quantities or divisions, over a period, and the court adjudges it a stealing offence in their bits. However, the prosecutor cannot elect on which of the taking the court will proceed.


    1. Stealing Offences handled in a District Court

    Under the Act, the District Court judge will impose a penalty of up to 14 years imprisonment. However, if the matter is handled by a local court (Summary offence), the maximum punishment is 2-year imprisonment.

    The evidence should not have occurred more than six months in point of time from any other of such takings.


    1. Larceny offences for receiving stolen goods

    If the court is convinced with all available evidence that you have received or purchased the proceeds of a larceny offence, the court will find you guilty of that larceny offence. The court will impose a 5-year imprisonment term and any other punishments specified by the law.

    Under the Crimes Act, it is unlawful to receive or purchase a stolen item or proceeds from it.


    1. Indicted Larceny offences

    If a group is charged for the larceny offence, and the Judge finds the party or people guilty of stealing offences, they will impose the appropriate penalties to them all. The maximum penalty the court imposes for such an offence is a 5-year imprisonment term.

    It also includes; larceny and stealing offences of;

    • ✔ Receiving gifts or proceeds from stolen item
    • ✔ Moving or helping to move the stolen item/ property
    • ✔ Purchasing the item even though you know it to be stolen

    1. Minor indictable offences

    If the court convicts the person of minor indictable offences other than the stealing offences, they will prescribe punishments following the Crimes Act. The minor indictable offences include those that may have constituted the offence but are not a stealing offence.


    1. Stealing offences by a bailee/agent/trustee

    A bailee in this context; is a person who holds or keeps a property in trust for another person. However, if they convert this property or any part of it as theirs, or for another other than the owner, shall be guilty of a stealing offence.

    A person can be a bailee even if they are not contracted or entrusted to keep/restore the property.


    1. Stealing property in a dwelling-house

    The law prescribes punishments of seven (7) years to those guilty of stealing in a dwelling-house or any other property


    1. Stealing offences involving an Aircraft

    The Part 154B of the Crimes Act stipulates the following penalty for those convicted of any of these offences;

    Stealing an aircraft incurs a 10 years imprisonment.

    For related offences, as where the person attempts to or;

    • ✔ Takes or exercises control unlawfully, whether direct or through another person, of an aircraft shall be deemed to be guilty of larceny will receive punishments of 7 years imprisonment
    • ✔ Takes or exercises control unlawfully, whether direct or through another person, of an aircraft while a person (not an accomplice) is onboard will receive a fourteen (14) years imprisonment term
    • ✔ Takes or exercises control unlawfully with violence or threat of violence, whether directly or through another person, of an aircraft while a person (not an accomplice) is onboard will receive a fourteen (14) years imprisonment term

    1. Stealing Firearms

    In NSW, an individual who steals a firearm is then liable to an imprisonment term for up to 14 years.

    In this context, a firearm has the same meaning as in the Firearms Act 1996. This rule includes a firearm that is an imitation within the meaning of Frimearms Act.


    1. Stealing from a ship in distress or wrecked

    A person guilty of stealing offences, or plundering, any part of a distressed, wrecked or stranded vessel, or any property of any kind to the value of two dollars belonging to such vessel, shall be liable to imprisonment for ten years.


    1. Stealing offences by tenants

    Where a temporal occupier of a building (tenant) steals any part of the property from the building to be converted for their gain, the court will find them guilty of larceny offences. Such offences incur penalties of 5 years imprisonment


    1. Stealing from a conveyance vehicle

    The court will find a person guilty of this offence if they;

    • Take, drive or take the conveyance to drive it, secreting it, restoring or pretending to restore it, and any other fraudulent purpose.
    • Knowing that any conveyance was taken without such consent, drives it or allows themselves to be carried in or on it.

    A Conveyance vehicle in this context includes;

    • ✔ Carts,
    • ✔ Motor car,
    • ✔ Caravans,
    • ✔ Moto lorry,
    • ✔ Omnibus,
    • ✔ Bicycle,
    • ✔ Military vehicles,
    • ✔ Vessels,
    • ✔ Tanks,
    • ✔ Cab, and
    • ✔ Any other wheeled or non wheeled carriages

    1. Stealing from a Docked ship or in a wharf

    The court will impose punishments of 7 years for such offences and related offences where;

    • A person steals property in a vessel, barge, boat or any “water-vehicle” in any creek, basin, river, sea or other water bodies belonging to a port.

    Or

    • Steals any property from a dock, a wharf, or a quay.

    1. Stealing records of any public or court office

    Under the Act, it is a stealing offence to unlawfully and intentionally or recklessly

    • Destroy,
    • Obliterate,
    • Injure,

    A part of the whole document in a court office, or relating to the business of any office, or matters of Her Majesty.

    The law prescribes punishments of 7 years imprisonment.


    1. Stealing of Animals

    A person is guilty of stealing offences concerning animals if they;

    • ✔ Steals any cattle, or
    • ✔ Wilfully kills any cattle with intent to steal the carcass, or skin, or other parts, of the cattle so killed

    The Act prescribes punishments of 14 years imprisonment for all those found guilty of this offence.

    A person can be convicted of the summary offence of stealing a dog under the Crimes Act (NSW) if they;

    • ✔ Steals any dog, or
    • ✔ Has unlawfully in his or her possession, any stolen dog, or the skin of any stolen dog, knowing the dog to have been stolen,

    The law prescribes a one-year imprisonment term for such offences.

    • Stealing of Cattle (ss. 126 to 131 of the Crimes Act 1900)

    Cattle are any of the animals used/rear in large farms or ranches. The offence of stealing cattle includes;

    • ✔ Fraudulently taking, or using, or taking to work any cattle the property of another person without the consent of the owner, or lawful custodian;
    • ✔ Takes any such cattle for secreting, or obtaining a reward for the restoration or pretended finding, or for any other fraudulent purpose, or
    • ✔ The offender fraudulently brands, ear-marks, defaces, alters, the brands or ear-marks of any other property holder’s cattle the property of another individual.

    For any of these or related offences, the court will impose a three years imprisonment term.

    Defences for stealing from a Person

    Stealing offences are handled as indictable offences in New South Wales. And it may not be eligible for an intervention or a Good Behaviour program.

    If you get a conviction for such offences, it will be recorded in your Criminal History Check.

    Therefore, the best way to avoid a conviction if you are charged with the offence is to get an experienced lawyer (in Criminal Law)

    A lawyer can explore any of the following defences for a stealing offence;

    • ✔ 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 critical 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 criminal history check in New South Wales?

    Stealing offences that are committed within the state of NSW will show up on a national criminal history check if there was a conviction that was recorded in a court (NSW or other Australian Jurisdiction).

    You can obtain a national police background check online via the Australian National Character Check (ANCC®) website.

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