Property Crime: Handling Stolen Goods
Updated: Jun 8
Handling stolen goods is a property offence prosecuted most frequently in the Magistrates’ Court jurisdiction.
Like many other property offences under the Crimes Act, several elements must be proven by the prosecution beyond reasonable doubt and because the prosecution have the burden of providing each element of the offence, the defences to this offence are varied.
In this article, we discuss the offence of Handle stolen goods, we review the elements and examine key terms and definitions. As will be seen, the penalties for this offence vary greatly depending upon the circumstances that underpin the offending.
Table of Contents
The Offence of Handling Stolen Goods
The offence of Handling stolen goods is prosecuted under the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) and is most frequently heard in the Magistrates' Court. Like other property offences, the value of the stolen property handled will determine the appropriate jurisdiction.
Where the value of the property is $100,000 or less the offence will be heard in the Magistrates' Court. Where the value exceeds $100,000 the offence will be heard in the County Court.
Handle receive stolen goods - Section 88 of the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic)
The prosecution must produce evidence that establishes beyond reasonable doubt the following elements to the offence of Handle receive stolen goods.
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.
Under s. 71(1) of the Act 'goods' are defined as including "money and every other description of property except land and includes things severed from the land by stealing".
'Property' under the Act is defined as "money and all other property real or personal including things in action and other intangible property"
Section 90 of the Act provides further explanation of when goods at law are regarded as being stolen for the purposes of the offence.
Under s. 88 of the Act, a person found guilty of Handling stolen goods is liable to a penalty of 15 years imprisonment (maximum).
Depending upon the facts, circumstances and evidence of an alleged offence, a factual dispute may be raised as to whether the prosecution have established any of the elements set out above.
As with other property offences, the prosecution must prove that a person was intentionally dishonest in their handling of the property.
In many cases, whether a person was or was not dishonest at the time of taking possession of property will not be clear-cut. As with any criminal allegation it is important to get advice from an experienced criminal defence lawyer.
The offence Handling stolen goods is an indictable offence. It is a very prevalent offence and usually heard and finalised in the Magistrates’ Court. However, where the quantum of the goods in question exceed $100,000 the case must be heard in the County Court.
Handle stolen goods is an offence for which the sentencing Court has a wide discretion, this is because the gravity of the offending can vary greatly between cases. At the lowest end of offending, diversion may be available. Conversely, where the circumstances of offending are serious a term of imprisonment may be ordered.
As a guide, the Sentencing Advisory Council has published statistics for top 4 sentencing outcomes in the Magistrates’ Court for the period 2016-2019:
Imprisonment – 49.7%
Community Correction Order – 25.6%
Fine – 14%
Adjourned undertaking/discharge/dismissal – 8.3%
Depending upon the gravity of the offending (most often determined by the value of the property alleged to have been stolen), low-level outcomes such as a court diversion, or adjourned undertaking may be available.
On the other hand, the brief of evidence may suggest a viable defence to an allegation of Handling stolen property. Either way, early preparation is key to identifying the best approaching when dealing with this offence.