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Stealing Offences (WA)

Written by Stacey Byrne

Stacey Byrne holds a Bachelor of Laws with Distinction and a Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice. Stacey was admitted to practice in the Supreme Court of Western Australia in May 2018. Stacey has a lot of experience in Family Law and is adept at negotiating settlements and in Family Court litigation.  She also regularly appears on client’s behalf in the Magistrates Court for a range of matters including Family Violence Restraining Orders, Criminal and Traffic matters. Stacey is passionate about finding practical, timely and cost-effective solutions for her clients. Stacey has also volunteered at community legal centres providing legal advice to a range of clients.

In Western Australia, under section 378 of the Criminal Code a person who steals anything that is capable of being stolen commits the crime of stealing. Things capable of being stolen include every moveable inanimate thing which is the property of a person. The term steal is defined in section 371 as fraudulently taking anything capable of being stolen or fraudulently converting it to a person’s own use or to the use of any other person.

What does ‘fraudulently’ mean?

A person takes a thing fraudulently if he does so with any of the following intents:

  • Intent to permanently deprive the owner of the thing or any part of it;
  • Intent to permanently deprive any person who has any special property in the thing or property of such special property;
  • Intent to use the thing or property as a pledge or security;
  • Intent to part with it on the condition of its return which the person taking or converting it may be unable to perform;
  • Intent to deal with it in such a manner that it cannot be returned in the condition in which it was at the time of the taking or conversion; and
  • In the case of money, intent to use it at the will of the person who takes or converts it although he may intend to afterwards repay the amount to the owner.

Taking or converting for the purpose of stealing can be considered fraudulent even if it was done without secrecy and without any attempt to conceal the act.

Indictable or summary offence?

Stealing is an indictable offence. This means that if heard on indictment, it is required to be heard in the District Court. Under section 426 of the Criminal Code, certain stealing offences can also be dealt with summarily in the Magistrates Court. When a stealing offence is dealt with summarily, the maximum penalty that can be imposed is imprisonment for two years.

Stealing motor vehicles

Under section 371A of the Criminal Code a person who unlawfully drives or uses a motor vehicle without the consent of the owner or the person in charge of the motor vehicle, is guilty of stealing the motor vehicle.

If a person steals a motor vehicle and wilfully drives it in a dangerous or reckless manner, they are liable to imprisonment for 8 years. In any other circumstances, stealing or attempting to steal a motor vehicle is punishable by a fine of $24,000 and/or imprisonment for 2 years when the matter is dealt with summarily. Where the matter o is dealt with on indictment, they are liable to imprisonment for 7 years.

Penalties for stealing

The penalties for the offence of stealing differs depending on the item stolen and its value. The below table outlines the penalties for stealing offences.

OffenceMaximum summary penaltyMaximum indictable penalty
Section 427(4) where the value of the property in question does not exceed $1,000A fine of $6,000Imprisonment for 7 years
Section 378 where the value of the property in question does not exceed $10,000 and no other circumstances applyA fine of $24,000 and/or imprisonment for 2 yearsImprisonment for 7 years
Section 378 where the value of the property in question exceeds $10,000 and no other circumstances applyN/AImprisonment for 7 years
Section 427(2) where the value of the property in question does not exceed $50,000A fine of $24,000 and/or imprisonment for 2 yearsImprisonment for 7 years

Indictable offences

An offence of stealing in any of the following circumstances carries a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment and must be dealt with on indictment:

  • Stealing from a dwelling where the thing stolen is valued at more than $10,000 or where the offender used or threatened violence to any person in the dwelling;
  • Stealing from any kind of vessel or place of deposit used for the conveyance or custody of goods in transit;
  • Stealing from a vessel which is wrecked, stranded or in distress;
  • Stealing a thing from within a public office;
  • Stealing which involves opening a locked room, box or other receptable with a key or other instrument;
  • Stealing by a clerk or servant from their employer or where the offender comes into possession of the thing by virtue of their employment where the value of the thing stolen does not exceed $10,000.

An offence of stealing in any of the following circumstances has a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment and must be dealt with on indictment:

  • Stealing by a clerk or servant from their employer or where the offender comes into possession of the thing by virtue of their employment where the value of the thing stolen exceeds $10,000.00 (Section 378(7));
  • Where the person is a company director or officer of a company or corporation and the thing is property of the company or corporation (Section 378(8));
  • Where the thing:
    • is received by the person in accordance with a power of attorney; or
    • the thing is money which was received with a direction it should be applied to any specified purpose or paid to any person specified; or
    • relates to a valuable security paid to the person; or
    • is part or all of the proceeds received under a power of attorney with specific directions as to how the proceeds should be applied or paid (Section 378(9))

Receiving or possessing stolen goods

In Western Australia, a person who receives property which has been obtained by means of an act constituting an indictable offence knowing that the property had been obtained in that way is guilty of a crime. A person who commits this crime is liable to the same penalty applicable for the offence by which the property was obtained, or to imprisonment for 14 years, whichever is the lesser penalty.

For the purpose of proving the receiving of anything, it is sufficient to show that the accused has, either alone or jointly with another person, had the thing in his possession, or had aided in concealing it or disposing of it.

A person who is in possession of anything capable of being stolen that is reasonably suspected to be stolen or otherwise unlawfully obtained is guilty of a crime and is liable to a fine of $24,000 and imprisonment for 2 years for a summary matter or imprisonment for 7 years for an indictable matter.

It is a defence to a charge under this section if the accused had no reasonable grounds for suspecting that the thing was unlawfully obtained.

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

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