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Shoplifting fraud and burglary creevey Horrell Lawyers

Shoplifting in Australia is a common offence known to most shop owners, with stealing of shop goods being a top contributor to business losses.

Where some cases of shoplifting could be regarded as ‘juvenile’ in nature (for the commonality amongst youth and being a minimal offence), shoplifting shouldn’t be disregarded. After all, what happens when an act of shoplifting soon becomes theft, fraud or burglary?

Contrary to popular belief, shoplifting can be more than just taking something from a shop without paying. Other examples of offense include, but are not limited to:

  • eating food or consuming drinks without paying for them;

  • altering price tags to get a lower price for an item; or

  • leaving a hotel or motel without paying.

What is the definition of ‘shoplifting’ in legal terms?

The definition of shoplifting and its’ acts are referred to as unauthorised dealing with shop goods. This definition is outlined in the Regulatory Offences Act 1985, see below:

Unauthorised dealing with shop goods

(1) Any person who, with respect to goods in a shop of a value of $150 or less—

(a)consumes them without the consent, express or implied, of the person in lawful possession of them; or

(b)deliberately alters, removes, defaces or otherwise renders indistinguishable a price shown on them, without the consent, express or implied, of the person in lawful possession of them; or

(c)whether or not the property in the goods has passed to the person, takes them away without discharging, or attempting honestly, or making proper arrangements, to discharge his or her lawful indebtedness therefore;

is guilty of a regulatory offence and, subject to section 9, is liable to a fine of 6 penalty units.

(1A)Without limiting subsection (1)(b), a price may be shown on goods by a bar code or a similar device.

(2)It is a defence to a charge of an offence defined in subsection (1)(c) to prove the taking away of the goods was not dishonest

As explained, this is relevant only to store goods at a value of $150 or less. As this offence is on the minor end of the severity scale, consequences are limited to issuing fines and/or penalties. In some cases, the court can order compensation for the goods or a good behaviour bond.

Consequently, when value exceeds $150 – higher penalties arise. Stealing and fraud may be a charge at hand in these cases.


When the goods exceed a value of $150, stealing becomes the offence at hand. The punishments for stealing are outlined in the Criminal Code 1899 – Section 398 as:

(1) Any person who steals anything capable of being stolen is guilty of a crime, and is liable, if no other punishment is provided, to imprisonment for 5 years.

Stealing can apply to a range of cases outside the obvious stealing from shop fronts or businesses. It can apply to stealing cars, animals, jewellery or anything of value that belongs to another person.


When dishonesty mixes with stealing, fraud is the result. The penalty for and definition of fraud is outlined in the Criminal Code 1899 – Section 408C as:

(1) A person who dishonestly—

(a) applies to his or her own use or to the use of any person—

(i) property belonging to another; or

(ii) property belonging to the person, or which is in the person’s possession, either solely or jointly with another person, subject to a trust, direction or condition or on account of any other person; or

(b) obtains property from any person; or

(c) induces any person to deliver property to any person; or

(d) gains a benefit or advantage, pecuniary or otherwise, for any person; or

(e) causes a detriment, pecuniary or otherwise, to any person; or

(f) induces any person to do any act which the person is lawfully entitled to abstain from doing; or

(g) induces any person to abstain from doing any act which that person is lawfully entitled to do; or

(h) makes off, knowing that payment on the spot is required or expected for any property lawfully supplied or returned or for any service lawfully provided, without having paid and with intent to avoid payment;

commits the crime of fraud.

Penalty— Maximum penalty—5 years imprisonment


From shoplifting to burglary. Burglary involves the illegal entry into a home with the intent to steal. Criminal Code 1899 – Sect 419 states:

(1) Any person who enters or is in the dwelling of another with intent to commit an indictable offence in the dwelling commits a crime.

The maximum penalty is 14 years imprisonment.

Lifetime imprisonment is also a potential outcome when further elements of the offence are involved I.e., breaking in, being armed with a weapon, or using violence.

Legal Representation for Criminal Charge in Brisbane, Toowoomba, Roma, and Townsville

Shoplifting, stealing, fraud and burglary have serious repercussions for individuals. Expert legal representation must be obtained so that you receive fully informed advice as to how the unique operation of law applies in your particular case.

With more than 50 years of combined experience in criminal law matters, we have a proven track record of achieving outstanding results for our clients.

Let us help you. Contact us today to find out more. We also operate a 24/7 crime hotline to assist you when you need it most. Our 24/7 crime hotline is 1800-2746-3529.

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