Updated: Sep 6
An earlier blog set out the basic elements to this offence, this post provides further detail.
The offence of Handling Stolen Goods is prosecuted under Section 88 of the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic).
The offence of Handling Stolen Goods is often an alternative offence to Theft (Section 74 of the Crimes Act (1958).
What the prosecution must prove
The prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt the following:
- A person handled stolen goods;
- The goods were stolen goods at the time that he or she handled them
- He or she knew or believed at the time that the goods were stolen
- His or her handling of the goods was dishonest.
The word "goods" is defined under the Act as including "money and every other description of property except land and includes things severed from the land by stealing”.
"Property" is defined as belonging to any person having possession or control of it or having in it any proprietary right or interest (not being an equitable interest arising only from an agreement to transfer or grant an interest).
"Handle", Section 81 sets out a variety of ways in which goods may be handled:
· By “receiving” the goods;
· By bringing the goods into Victoria, or undertaking or assisting in bringing them into Victoria;
· By undertaking the retention, removal, disposal, or realisation of the goods for the benefit of another person;
· By assisting in the retention, removal, disposal, or realisation of the goods by another person;
The prosecution must prove is that the goods were “stolen goods” at the time that the accused handled them (Crimes Act 1958 s88(1); R v Mabbott  WAR 323; R v Park (1988) 87 Cr App R 164). Section 90 defines the operation of 'stolen goods" for the purposes of an offence. Under this section stolen goods refer to:
i) Goods stolen in Victoria or elsewhere, provided that:
· The stealing was an offence under the Crimes Act 1958; or
· The stealing amounted to an offence where and at the time when the goods were stolen (Crimes Act 1958 s90(1).
ii) Goods which represent the stolen goods in the hands of the thief or a handler, those goods being the proceeds of any disposal or realisation of the whole or part of the goods stolen or of goods which represent them; and
iii) Goods obtained in Victoria or elsewhere either by blackmail or by deception in the circumstances described in Crimes Act 1958 s81(1) (Crimes Act 1958 s90(4)).
It is to be noted that goods which were originally taken by a legally innocent person (such as a child under the age of criminal responsibility, or a person protected by the defence of mental impairment) are not “stolen goods”. Consequently, a person who subsequently handles those goods will not be guilty of this offence (Walters v Lunt  2 All ER 645; Property Offences (1986), Law Book Co, 2nd ed, 354).
Knowledge or belief that the goods were stolen
The prosecution must establish that the accused was aware at the point of taken handled the goods that they were in fact stolen. This element requires actual knowledge or belief. A suspicion that the goods were stolen is not sufficient (R v Grainge  1 WLR 619; R v Raad  3 NSWLR 344; R v Henderson & Warwick (2009) 22 VR 662).
Dishonesty must also be proven
The prosecution must prove that the handling was dishonest. Dishonesty for the purposes of this offence involves the same concept as for theft. That is, an accused person acts dishonestly for the purposes of Section 88 if their handling of the stolen goods was without any claim of legal right (R v Salvo  VR 401; R v Bonollo  VR 633; R v Brow  VR 783).
Penalties for Handling Stolen Goods
Under Section 88 of the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) a person found guilty of Handling stolen goods is liable to a penalty of 15 years imprisonment (maximum). Despite the significant maximum penalty as seen below the offence is frequently dealt with in the Magistrates' Court and sentencing outcomes can often be without conviction.
The prosecution must prove each element of the offence of Handle Receive Stolen Goods. There are several elements to be proven beyond reasonable doubt, and this in turn gives rise for the potential of multiple defences based on a factual dispute. A defence may arise on a given set of facts as to:
- whether goods were in fact handled by the accused;
- whether the prosecution can prove the accused knew the goods were stolen
- whether the goods were in fact stolen
- whether the accused was acting dishonestly
Handling stolen goods is an indictable offence. It is an offence which carries a higher maximum penalty than the offence of theft (15 years as opposed to 10 years). Despite the high maximum penalty, the offence is frequently heard and determined in the Magistrates’ Court and the sentencing outcomes can vary enormously depending upon the value of the goods in question.
The jurisdictional limit for Handling stolen goods in the Magistrates’ Court is $100,000. Where the goods exceed this limit, the case must be heard in the County Court, and usually the risk of an imprisonment will increase. The sentencing options available to the court for the offence of Handle stolen goods include:
- Unconditional dismissal (section 76 bond)
- Adjourned undertaking
- Community Correction Order
As a general guide to sentencing outcomes for this offence, refer to the published statistics of the Sentencing Advisory Council for the period 1 July 2016 - 30 June 2019:
Imprisonment - 49.7%
Community Correction Order - 25.6%
Fine - 14%
Adjourned Undertaking/Discharge/Dismissal - 8.3%
Prepare early and get advice
If you are facing a charge of Handling Stolen Goods, getting prompt advice is important. Call our office on 03 9668 7600 for a free case assessment. An assessment will reveal whether you have a viable defence or whether it is better to focus on mitigating the penalty.