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Stealing Offences in New South Wales

Stealing includes the offences known as larceny, extortion, obtaining, embezzling, theft or robbery. The separate stealing offences are classified according to how, and what was stolen. Stealing, and similar offences, are governed by Part 4 the Crimes Act 1900. Depending on the nature of the offence and the value of the property stolen, it can be dealt with as a summary, or indictable, offence.

What is stealing?

Stealing is the dishonest taking of something that belongs to someone else, without intending to return it. The thing must be something capable of being moved and must have some value. It must belong to someone else and it must be taken (moving it the slightest distance is enough) and that taking must be without the agreement of the owner of the property. Stealing can also include instances where you find something of some value and decide to keep it (larceny by finding).

What is not stealing?

It is not stealing if the item is taken for a temporary purpose. However, if the taker plans to use the items as their own for a while and then return them that is still stealing. It is not stealing if the person who takes the item takes them by mistake or if they believe that they are legally (not just morally) justified in taking the property, even if their belief is wrong.


Larceny is simply the crime of taking property or money belonging to another, no matter what the property or the value of it is. The maximum penalty for Larceny offences is 5 years imprisonment, or 2 years if dealt with in the Local Court.

Fraud, Extortion, Obtaining, and Embezzling

Embezzlement is the unlawful taking of property or money by someone who 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 some other way. Extortion is another way of saying black mail and is the use of threats to obtain the property of another person. Each of these offences has a maximum penalty of 10 years gaol.

Break and Enter

This offence is commonly known as burglary. It applies to all and any premises, including homes, businesses, churches and schools. The penalty for this offence is a gaol sentence of 14 years. “Breaking” includes opening a closed window or door but not entering through an opened one. There does not have to be any actual breakage. It also includes entry by fraud or using a key without permission. Where there is no “break in” there is the separate offence of stealing property from a home which carries a penalty of 7 years in gaol.

What are the circumstances of aggravation for Break & Enter?

Circumstances of aggravation are circumstances which, if are present at the time of the break in mean that the offence is more serious. These circumstances include where there is more than one person involved in the break and enter, where the break in occurs when people are present, where a weapon is used (weapon includes items such as bats and syringes) where violence is used, where injury is caused and where a person is held captive for a period of time. The maximum penalty is then increased to 20 years. If the offender is armed with a gun or causes a serious injury, then the maximum penalty is increased to 25 years and there is a minimum period in custody of 7 years.


Robbery is the most serious of the stealing offences in New South Wales. It is the stealing of any personal property or money (or attempting to steal) from a person. It also includes assaulting them with the intention of robbing them. It isn’t necessary that the item stolen is physically on the person, it may be in their immediate vicinity. The maximum penalty for robbery is a term of imprisonment for 14 years. For all offences of Robbery a gaol sentence is the most likely penalty

What are the circumstances of aggravation in Robbery?

For the offence of Robbery these circumstances  include where physical violence is used, where the person robbed suffers an injury or they are held captive ( even for a very short time). The maximum penalty is then increased to 20 years gaol. If the person robbed suffers a serious injury then the maximum penalty is increased to 25 years and there is a minimum period in custody of 7 years.


Michelle Makela

Michelle Makela is a Legal Practice Director at Go To Court Lawyers. She holds a Juris Doctor, a Bachelor of Science (Psychology) and a Master of Criminology. She was admitted to practice in 2006. Michelle has over 15 years experience in the legal industry, working across commercial litigation, criminal law, family law and estate planning. 

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