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Stealing Offences in the Australian Capital Territory

A person who steals in the Australian Capital Territory may commit one of a number of criminal offences.  All of these criminal offences are contained in the Criminal Code 2002, which are distinguished according to the elements to the offence.  For example, if you dishonestly take somebody else’s property with the intention of permanently depriving the owner, you will commit theft.  If you commit theft and in the process hurt or threaten to hurt somebody, you will commit robbery.  If you commit theft by trespassing on property, you will commit burglary. 

A person who steals in the Australian Capital Territory may commit one of a number of criminal offences.

Each of these offences are indictable, meaning they will generally be dealt with by a judge and jury in the A.C.T. Supreme Court, although in certain circumstances an indictable offence can be dealt with by a magistrate summarily. 

Theft

It is a criminal offence to take somebody else’s property with the intention of permanently depriving them of ownership of the property.  A person intends to “permanently deprive” another if they intend to keep the property as their own and to dispose of when they like.  Theft is an indictable offence and carries a penalty of 1000 penalty units (i.e. $150,000), 10 years imprisonment or both.

Minor theft

If a person commits theft but the value of property stolen is $2,000 or less, then under the Criminal Code 2002 that person will commit “minor theft”.  Minor theft is less serious than theft, reflected in the fact that it is a summary offence dealt with by a magistrate alone.  The penalty for minor theft is 50 penalty units (i.e. $7,500), 6 months imprisonment or both.  However, it is important to keep in mind that even if the replacement value of the property stolen is $2,000 or less, that does not mean you cannot be charged with the more serious offence of theft described above.

Robbery

If a person commits theft and, immediately before or after committing the offence, they use force or threaten to use force on another person with the intent of committing theft or escaping from the scene of the crime, they will commit the offence of robbery.  The penalty for robbery is a fine of 1400 penalty units (i.e. $210,000), 14 years imprisonment or both.  Robbery is an indictable offence so you have the right to have the hearing heard by a judge and jury.  However, you can consent to having the case dealt with summarily by a magistrate if it relates to property with a value of $30,000 or less.

Aggravated robbery

If a person commits robbery in a group with one or more other people, or commits robbery whilst having a weapon in their possession (whether they use it or not), they will commit an offence of aggravated robbery.  If found guilty of aggravated burglary an offender faces a fine of 2500 penalty units (i.e. $375,000), 25 years imprisonment or both.  You can consent to having aggravated robbery charges dealt with summarily by a magistrate if it relates to money or property with a value of $30,000 or less.

Burglary

If a person commits theft whilst trespassing on another person’s property, they commit burglary.  The penalty for burglary is a fine of 1400 penalty units (i.e. $210,000), 14 years imprisonment or both.  The property being trespassed on does not have to be a building; it can also be a caravan, or any other vehicle that is used as a residence.  You can consent to having burglary charges heard summarily by a magistrate if they relate to property with a value of $30,000 or less.

Aggravated burglary

If a person commits burglary in a group with one or more other people, or commits burglary with an offensive weapon in their possession (whether they use it or not), they will commit an offence of aggravated burglary.  If found guilty of aggravated burglary an offender faces a fine of 2000 penalty units (i.e. $300,000), 20 years imprisonment or both.  Aggravated burglary charges can be dealt with summarily by a magistrate if they relate to property with a value of $30,000 or less.

Receiving stolen property

If a person receives stolen property dishonestly, that is, believing or knowing the property to be stolen, they will commit an offence of receiving stolen property.  The penalty for this offence is 1000 penalty units (i.e. $150,000), 10 years imprisonment or both.  This offence is also an “alternative verdict provision” if a person is being tried for committing theft.  This means that if theft is not made out before the court, but the offence of receiving stolen property is, then the person can be found guilty of this offence.

Other stealing offences

There are a number of other stealing offences in the Criminal Code 2002.  For example, taking a motor vehicle without the owner’s consent and being equipped to commit theft are separate indictable offences.  There are also a number of summary offences, such as making off without paying for goods or services.  If the property taken is less than $2,000 (i.e. shoplifting), you could face a fine or 6 months imprisonment.

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