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Home Blog Theft & Stealing Offences in Victoria (VIC)

Theft & Stealing Offences in Victoria (VIC)

There are a number of offences where someone can get convicted of under stealing offences in Victoria (if proven guilty). Division 2 of Part 1of the Crimes Act 1958 defines the law and stipulates punishments for Stealing crimes in the state of Victoria.

The stealing offences in Victoria range from minor shoplifting offences or theft to include;


The offence for stealing is a criminal offence and will show up on an individual’s national police check in Victoria. The offence is displayed as a “Disclosable Court Outcome”. Offences for stealing are displayed on criminal history checks in accordance with Victoria’s spent convictions legislation.

What court handles a stealing offence in Victoria (VIC)?

The Crimes Act 1958 (VIC) considers stealing offences as indictable offences and are dealt with by a judge or jury in higher courts. However, both parties may elect to handle the matter as a summary offence in a Magistrate Court, depending on the degree of the offence.

Usually, only offences where the value of what was stolen is over $100,000 will be heard in higher courts as serious offences. An accused person before theft offences is guilty of an indictable crime and liable to imprisonment (10 years maximum).

What is the offence of theft?

Sections 72 and 73 of the Crimes Act 1958 defines the offence of theft as having the following three elements.

When tabled before the court, the judge expects the prosecution to prove three things;

  1. The accused appropriated property belonging to another;
  2. The accused did so to deprive the other of the property permanently; and
  3. The accused acted dishonestly

For the jury to be convinced about the act of appropriation, the prosecution must prove that;

What is appropriation?

The Crimes Act of Victoria only finds a person guilty of theft if there was an act of appropriation. In this context, appropriation means;

The accused appropriated the property by;

How does a person illegally appropriate a property?

Several court decisions in the past have adjusted and reviewed the activities or tasks that can constitute a person appropriating a property.

What is a Property?

"Property" under the law must include;

Money, and all other property real/estate. It includes things in action and other intangible properties.

Property can include, but is not limited to:

In some instances, the thing assumed to be a property may require the court's discretion as to whether it qualifies as a property. Only the judge can determine whether a particular circumstance creates a property right. However, it is for the jury to determine whether that ircumstance existed as a question of fact. It is perfectly explained in R v Hall [1973] QB 126.

Other unique forms of property under the VIC laws

Section 73 of the Act lists Land and other related things as properties that the law considers "has stealable".

Section 73 (6) also provides that a person can be guilty of theft of Land or related properties where;


In this context, the law recognizes a person as a personal representative even if they are not a trustee. And can still be guilty of appropriating the property illegally.

The law also states that a property must exist before the accused can be guilty of stealing offences.

Stealing offences in exceptional ownership cases

A person can be guilty of stealing offences if the “own” the property under any of these conditions;

  1. Subject to a trust;
  2. Held under a fiduciary obligation;
  3. Subject to a commitment to make restoration; or
  4. The property of a corporation sole.

Where the property is subject to a trust

If the property is subject to a trust or includes any beneficiary who must inherit the property by law, the people listed as beneficiaries are considered the "owners" under the law.

Appropriating the property or attempting to by the Trustee are punishable stealing offences under the law.

Where the property is under a fiduciary obligation.

A person would be under a fiduciary duty if they received directives on how such properties under their care are disposed of.

In such cases, the property's giver will remain the property's legal owner until the obligation is satisfied.

Where there is an obligation to make restoration

A person can be found guilty of a stealing offence if they refused/declined the obligation to restore such violations.

The person is required to make restoration where the person;

Under the law, the property is still the legal property of the person entitled to the restoration.

Properties involving a Corporation

Section 73 (11) of the Act regards all properties belonging to a corporation. It doesn't consider any vacancy in the corporation.

Therefore, it is a theft offence to illegally appropriate or claim a corporation's property (organisation) even when the incumbent is dead, or the position that managed such property is vacant.

Offences of trying to deprive the owner permanently

A Stealing crime is complete when the accused showed the intention to permanently deny the owner of their property after they appropriated it.

  1. Furthermore, it is enough if the prosecution provided evidence to the court that the accused intended/attempted to deprive the owner permanently.
  2. It includes the circumstance where the accused intended to return the property after the owner's interest had fundamentally changed. An example is where the accused person illegally took their ticket for a concert and returned it after the show.
  3. If the accused person illegally;
  4. Takes a property intending to replace, or
  5. Return it in its equivalent,
  6. The court can find them guilty of the offence of permanently depriving the owner of the property (stealing crimes). It can be referenced in the case of R v Cockburn [1968].

Intention to deprive particular owners

The court will find you guilty of a stealing offence if it is convinced that you were trying to “cheat” or default on a trust.

This offence also includes where a person refused to restore a property they obtained legally by mistake. It has related properties and the proceeds of the property.

Acting regardless of the owner’s rights

The accused is deemed to intend to deprive a person of property permanently. However, they did not have that intention when they appropriated the property if they intended to treat it as his or their own to dispose of regardless of the owner's rights.

Offences of such cases include;

Offences including Vehicles, Vessels and Aircraft

The Judge or Jury of a Higher court can find an accused person guilty of a stealing offence of vehicles, aircraft and other vehicles where;

The stipulation of this law is found under Section 73 of the Crimes Act 1958.

Stealing Offences involving animals

The Victorian laws regard wild creatures, tamed or untamed, as property. A person or those working under their orders can claim ownership to a wild animal if they;

A person will be guilty of stealing an animal if they;

However, a person “cannot steal”;

However, illegally taking or claiming or using another person’s farm animal or domestic animal is regarded as a stealing offence. The offender will be given the stipulated penalty as per the law and the offence will also appear on a criminal history check. It includes all instances where you;

Obtaining the property through dishonest means

The court can find you guilty of a stealing offence if they believe you obtained the property through "dishonest" actions.

Some example of such offences is;

In R v Salvo [1980] VR 401 per Murphy J, the court showed that: stealing offences through Dishonesty is a subjective concept. The jury is concerned with the accused's personal beliefs.

Willingness to pay for the property

A person can still be found guilty of using dishonest means to obtain a property (stealing offence) even if they intended to pay for the property. The court does not consider the accused person willing to pay as an excuse that they used dishonest means.

Receiving Stolen items or their proceeds

The court will find guilty all those who;

Under the law, such offenders will be convicted the same as those who committed the original stealing offence (10 years imprisonment term).

Theft of a firearm

A person is prohibited under the law from stealing a gun.

The court issues special Penalty of;

Here a firearm means the same as in Section 3(1) of the Firearms Act 1996.

Possible defences of a stealing offence

The best action after receiving a court summons for a stealing charge is to contact an experienced lawyer.

The lawyer can explore any of the following defences;

Do stealing offences show up on a national criminal history check in Victoria?

The offence of stealing will show up on a national police check in Victoria and is displayed on the check in accordance with the Spent Convictions Scheme of Victoria.

You can obtain your police check online via the Australian National Character Check (ANCC®) website. Results are dispatched via email.

Sources

Crimes Act 1958 (VIC) - https://content.legislation.vic.gov.au/sites/default/files/2021-02/58-6231aa294%20authorised.pdf

Judicial College of Victoria - https://www.judicialcollege.vic.edu.au/eManuals/CCB/5094.htm

Roffel v R [1985] VR 511 - https://victorianreports.com.au/judgment/view/1985-VR-511

R v Hall [1973] QB 126 - https://www.lawteacher.net/cases/r-v-hall.php

Firearms Act 1996 (VIC) - http://www5.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/vic/consol_act/fa1996102/s3.html

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