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This article was written by Michelle Makela - Legal Practice Director

Michelle has over 15 years experience in the legal industry, working across commercial litigation, criminal law, family law and estate planning.  Michelle has been involved in all practice areas of the firm and in her personal practice has had experience in litigation at all levels (state and federal industrial tribunals, the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, the Federal Court, Federal...

Receiving Stolen Goods


In NSW it is an offence to accept property, items or goods that have been stolen. This offence is known as receiving stolen goods. It is an offence to accept, take or receive property that has been stolen. However, the property must have been stolen in a manner which would amount to a serious indictable offence which is any offence carrying five or more years imprisonment such as LarcenyRobbery or Break, Enter and Steal. A person can be charged with receiving stolen goods if they take into their custody or accept goods that were stolen in a way which amounts to a serious indictable offence. The maximum penalty for this offence is 10 years imprisonment.

The Offence of Receiving Stolen Property

The offence of Receiving Stolen Property is contained in section 188 of the Crimes Act 1900 and states:

(1) Whosoever receives, or disposes of, or attempts to dispose of, any property, the stealing whereof amounts to a serious indictable offence, knowing the same to have been stolen, shall be guilty of a serious indictable offence, and may be indicted, either as an accessory after the fact, or for a substantive offence, and in the latter case whether the principal offender has been previously tried or not, or is amenable to justice or not, and in either case is liable:

  • (a) if the property is a motor vehicle or a motor vehicle part, or a vessel or a vessel part, to imprisonment for 12 years, or
  • (b) in the case of any other property, to imprisonment for 10 years.

What Actions Might Constitute Receiving Stolen Property?

Examples of actions that amount to receiving stolen property include:

  • Accepting an iPhone from your friend who stole it from the Apple Store;
  • Picking up and keeping a necklace that fell from the handbag that a homeless man ripped from the clutches of a woman walking through the park; or
  • Taking a wallet your wife pickpocketed from an unsuspecting man on the train and throwing it in the bin after she’d taken out the cash.

What the Police Must Prove

To convict you of receiving stolen property the prosecution must prove each of the following matters beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • That you accepted or received property;
  • That property was stolen;
  • The property was stolen in a manner that amounted to a serious indictable offence; and
  • You knew the property was stolen.

Possible Defences for Receiving Stolen Property

A person charged with receiving stolen property may defend the charge by:

  • Arguing that they did not actually receive the property;
  • Arguing that the property was not stolen or that there was no way they could have known it was stolen;
  • To argue that the property was not stolen in a way that amounted to a strictly indictable offence; or
  • To raise duress as the reason for your conduct.

Which Court Will Hear Your Matter?

Where the value of the property is greater than $5,000 the matter will be finalised in the Local Court unless the Department of Public Prosecutions or you elect to have the matter finalised in the District Court.

Where the value of the property is less than $5,000 the matter will be finalised in the Local Court unless the Department of Public Prosecutions elects to have the matter finalised in the District Court.

If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.

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