Stealing is the fraudulent taking, conversion or use of ‘anything capable of being stolen’ without the owner’s consent. 


The maximum penalty is five years of imprisonment.

A circumstance of aggravation is an allegation that increases the applicable maximum penalty.

Circumstances of aggravation include stealing wills or livestock, stealing from your employer (stealing by clerks or servants), or stealing as an agent or company director.

If there’s a circumstance of aggravation, the maximum penalty is 10–14 years of imprisonment.


Defences to a charge of stealing include:

  • The owner consented.
  • You honestly and reasonably (but mistakenly) believed the owner consented.
  • You have an honest claim of right to the property.
  • The property was abandoned.
  • The dispute is civil or commercial rather than criminal in nature.

Among other things, the penalties for stealing depend on:

  • the type of property stolen
  • whether there’s a circumstance of aggravation
  • whether you have returned property or provided restitution.

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