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Stealing Offences

Put simply, stealing occurs when a person takes something belonging to someone else without permission and without the intention of returning it. Stealing offences include larceny, break and enter, robbery and fraud, extortion, obtaining a benefit by deception and embezzlement. These are defined by Part 4 of the Crimes Act 1900 and can be summary or indictable offences, depending on the nature of the offence and the value of the stolen goods.


Larceny is the theft of money or personal property without the use of violence or fraud. Examples of larceny include shoplifting, stealing bicycles on the street or pick-pocketing.  Under Part 4, Division 5 of the Crimes Act, the prosecution must prove the following elements to convict a person of larceny:

  1. The property is taken and carried away;
  2. The property belongs to someone else;
  3. The property is taken without the consent of the owner;
  4. The property is taken with the intention of permanently depriving the owner of it; and
  5. The property is taken dishonestly.
  6. The property was taken without a claim of right

These elements must be established beyond a reasonable doubt, otherwise the accused must be acquitted.  Larceny offences carry a maximum sentence of 5 years imprisonment, or 2 years if heard in the Local Court. For property less than $2,000 in value, the maximum penalty is a fine of $2,200


  1. If the accused had no intention to permanently deprive the owner of the property and always had the intention of returning the property when it was taken
  2. If the accused honestly and genuinely believed they had a legal entitlement to the property, this is the defence of ‘claim of right’
  3. If the accused found the property abandoned and there are no reasonable steps to find the owner.  If there are reasonable steps to find the owner which are not taken, the accused may be found guilty of ‘larceny by finding’

Break and Enter

A break and enter offence is an offence that encompasses circumstances where access to premises has been procured by breaching the security of the premises with the intent to commit an offence (such as theft or assault). Breaking and entering premises could include such actions as breaking through a window or climbing over a fence into someone’s property.  A break and enter offence is a serious offence and courts can impose a term of imprisonment on people found guilty of the offence. Depending on the circumstances of the offence, an offender may be liable for up to 25 years in prison.

To be guilty of a break and enter offence, it must be proved that an offender:

  1. Broke into a house or dwelling;
  2. Entered the premises; and
  3. Had the intent to commit an offence or did commit an offence.

The seriousness of a break and enter offence can be increased by the presence of an aggravating circumstance. An aggravated offence exposes an offender to a higher maximum penalty.  For more information on break and enter charges please see our dedicated article.

Call us to arrange a free 20 minute no obligation consultation that includes case evaluation and cost estimate.


Robbery is the theft or attempted theft of money or personal property from a person through the use or threat of assault.  In simple terms it is a hybrid offence of larceny and assault, containing elements of both offences.  It is covered by part 4 of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW). In NSW, robbery is the most serious of all the stealing offences. Jail time is the most likely outcome for robbery offences. It carries a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment.  It requires

  • the unlawful taking and carrying away of property with the intention to permanently deprive the owner of the property;
  • the property was taken without the owner’s valid consent; Consent is not seen as valid if influenced by force or threats
  • the property was taken from another person; and
  • the property was taken by actual violence or through putting the owner in fear of actual violence

Examples of Robbery

  • threatening a person with violence when stealing property
  • assaulting a person and successfully stealing their property
  • assaulting someone and being unsuccessful in stealing their property

Aggravating Factors with Robbery

There are certain circumstances which can make the offence seen as more serious, known as aggravating factors. These can increase the maximum penalty available from the maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment for ‘basic’ robbery. These include:

  • aggravated robbery such as use of physical violence, intention or reckless infliction of bodily harm, deprivation of any person’s liberty;
  • robbery with wounding the infliction of grievous bodily harm
  • armed robbery – the accused was armed with an offensive weapon
  • robbery in company – robbery in the company of another person

Where physical violence is used or where the victim is held captive or sustains an injury can result in a maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment.  If the victim sustains a serious injury, the maximum penalty increases to 25 years.

Robbery may be downgraded to larceny if a plea deal is accepted by the prosecution. This can greatly increase the chance of avoiding imprisonment.

Fraud, Embezzlement, Obtaining and Extortion

Fraud is when a person obtains money or property they are not entitled to from another person through dishonest acts.  Embezzlement is a type of financial fraud, whereby a person entrusted with looking after money or property steals or misappropriates these funds or assets, for example, an employee stealing from their employer.  Obtaining is when money or property is not physically taken but is taken through other means such as deception.  Finally, extortion (often known as ‘black mail’) is where a person threatens another person to obtain their property.

Fraud, embezzlement, obtaining and extortion each carry a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment.  For more information regarding fraud, please see our dedicated article on Types of Fraud.

How can BSM help?

The criminal lawyers at Brander Smith McKnight are highly experienced with stealing offences. We can advise you of your legal rights and obligations and vigorously advocate for you in court.  We have a high success rate in defending the stealing offences of larceny, robbery, break and enter and fraud.

Call us to arrange a free 20 minute no obligation consultation that includes case evaluation and cost estimate.

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