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Stealing Offences (NT)

Written by Fernanda Dahlstrom

Fernanda Dahlstrom has a Bachelor of Laws, a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Arts. She also completed a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice at the College of Law in Victoria. Fernanda practised law for eight years, working in criminal defence, child protection and domestic violence law in the Northern Territory. She also practised in family law after moving to Brisbane in 2016.

In the Northern Territory there are various stealing offences, most of which are governed by the Criminal Code 1983. While the offence of stealing is a property offence, some offences involving theft are composite offences, meaning they involve both property and violence. This article will outline the main offences relating to stealing in the Northern Territory.

What is stealing?

Stealing is the dishonest appropriation of property belonging to another with the intention to permanently deprive the other person of it. However, it does not include the appropriation of property by a person who reasonably believes that the property is lost and that its lawful owner cannot be found.

Stealing

Under Section 210 of the Criminal Code, a person who is found guilty of stealing is liable to a maximum penalty of seven years imprisonment, or 14 years imprisonment if the thing stolen is a testamentary instrument (a will) of a person who is living or dead or an item that has a value of more than $100,000.

Receiving stolen property

Under Section 229 of the Criminal Code, it is an offence to receive property that has been obtained by way of an indictable offence (such as stealing or robbery). This offence is punishable by a maximum penalty of seven years imprisonment, or 14 years if the value of the thing is more than $100,000.

Assault with intent to steal

Under Section 212 of the Criminal Code, a person who assaults another person with intent to steal from them is guilty of an offence and liable to a maximum penalty of seven years imprisonment. If the offender is armed, they are liable to a maximum of 14 years imprisonment and if they are armed with a firearm and injure a person by discharging it, they are liable to imprisonment for life.

An assault where an act of theft is actually carried out constitutes the more serious offence of robbery.

Stealing domestic animals

Under Section 54 of the Summary Offences Act, it is an offence to steal a domestic animal such as a dog or any other animal usually kept in a state of confinement. This offence carries a maximum penalty of a fine of $200 plus the value of the animal.

Which court will deal with the matter?

Stealing is an indictable offence, which can be heard summarily with the consent of both defence and prosecution. In the majority of cases, charges of stealing are finalised in the Local Court, where the maximum penalty that can be imposed for a single charge is imprisonment for two years. If either the defence or the prosecution elects to have the matter heard on indictment, it must be committed to the Supreme Court and finalised there.

When a minor is charged with stealing, the matter will generally be heard in the Children’s Court.

Defences

A person can be found not guilty of stealing on any of the following bases:

Factual defence

A factual defence is where the accused denies doing the acts alleged.

Reasonable doubt

If the prosecution cannot prove all the elements of the offence beyond a reasonable doubt, the accused will be found not guilty.

Honest and reasonable belief of lawful right

If the accused had an honest and reasonable belief that they were the owner of the property taken, they have a full defence to a charge of stealing. Whether a mistaken belief was reasonable will be assessed based on the circumstances of the alleged offence.

Duress

If the accused can establish that they acted under duress, they must be found not guilty. A person acts under duress if they are essentially ‘forced’ to carry out the acts by someone else. If a person can establish that they were subjected to serious threats (of death or serious harm) if they did not carry out the acts, they have a full defence.

If you require legal advice or representation in relation to a theft matter or in any other legal matter, please contact Go To Court Lawyers.

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