If you are charged with a theft offence, you should obtain legal advice immediately. There are a great number of possible charges, each with particular elements and procedural consequences. Contact us for a free initial consultation.


At common law, stealing or theft is known as larceny. There are a number of statutory offences involving larceny, but it continues to be defined primarily by common law.

The elements of larceny are:

  • Property belongs to another person;
  • The property is taken and carried away;
  • The victim does not consent;
  • The accused intends to permanently deprive the victim of the property;
  • The accused acts fraudulently (dishonestly); and
  • The accused does not have a legal right to the property (i.e. it doesn’t belong to them).

Even if the accused intends to return the property at a later date, that by itself is not a defence to a charge of larceny.

Section 117 of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) states that the maximum penalty for larceny is 5 years imprisonment. However if dealt with summarily in the Local Court, the following maximum penalties apply:

  • Property <=$2000 – 2 years imprisonment and/or 20 penalty units
  • Property >$2000 but <= $5,000 – 2 years imprisonment and/or 50 penalty units
  • Property > $5,000 – 2 years imprisonment or 100 penalty units

There are a number of offences that deal with larceny of specific items, for example:

  • Sections 126-131, Crimes Act 1900 (NSW), which deal with larceny involving cattle.
  • Sections 132 and 133, Crimes Act 1900 (NSW), which deal with larceny involving dogs.
  • Section 513, Crimes Act 1900 (NSW), which deals with larceny involving plants.
  • Section 154A, Crimes Act 1900 (NSW), which deals with larceny involving motor vehicles.


Robbery is a form of stealing that also involves assault. The offence is set out in Part 4, Division 2 of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW), but the common law rules continue to define many aspects of the offence.

Section 94 of the Crimes Act sets out the offences of robbing, assaulting with intent to rob, and stealing from the person. The elements of robbery are:

  • All the elements of larceny (see above); and
  • The victim is ‘compelled by force or fear to submit to the theft’.

The maximum penalty for robbery is 14 years imprisonment.

There are a number of related offences, including:

  • Section 95 – robbery/assault with intent to rob/steal from the person BUT in circumstances of aggravation – maximum penalty 20 years imprisonment.
    • Circumstances of aggravation are the use of serious physical violence, the intentional or reckless infliction of actual bodily harm, and the deprivation of liberty.
  • Section 96 – Aggravated robbery/assault with intent to rob/steal from the person, with wounding or grievous bodily harm – maximum penalty 25 years imprisonment.
  • Section 97 – Armed robbery/robbery in company – maximum penalty 20 years imprisonment, or 25 years imprisonment if armed with a ‘dangerous weapon’
  • Section 98 – Armed robbery/robbery in company, with wounding or grievous bodily harm – maximum penalty 25 years imprisonment.


Stealing from the person is robbery but without the assault, for example bag-snatching. It differs from larceny in that the property must be taken directly from the victim’s person. It is an offence under s 94 of the Crimes Act, and the maximum penalty is 14 years imprisonment. However this offence can also be dealt with in the Local Court, where lower maximum penalties apply.

As such, it is important to obtain legal advice to maximise your chances of a good outcome at Court. 

If you are seeking legal advice, contact us for a free initial consultation.

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