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By Sahar Adatia and Jimmy Singh.


If you’ve ever had something stolen from you, other than a whole lot of rage and frustration, you’ve probably wondered what it is that makes a thief feel so blatantly justified in carrying out such an act.

Indeed, the mind of a robber is a dysfunctional and bewildering one – every move is calculated and mental notes are constantly made of what goods are valuable and when they’ll be available to steal, until such morally questionable behaviour becomes second-nature.

But then there’s downright heartless. Like stealing from the disabled and those who are vulnerable.

Last week brought one such case to light, involving merciless thieves in Adelaide who robbed a young girl with cerebral palsy of her special needs communication tablet worth $25,000.

The device, which attaches to her wheelchair and tracks eye movements to convert into words, is the only way the girl can speak.


Thieves Steal Tobii Eye Gaze Computer Worth $25,000 from Cerebral Palsy Teenager that Allows her to Speak

Jessica Armitstead, who has cerebral palsy, is dependent upon her Tobii Eye Gaze special needs computer to interact with friends and family.

The 13-year-old girl is non-verbal, so without the communication device, she only has the ability to answer ‘yes’, or ‘no’.

But callous crooks stole the computer – which uses eye tracking and movement technology – from her mother’s unlocked parked car at Largs Bay.

Unfortunately, the device was left in the car overnight and in the morning was discovered stolen.

The device enables Jessica to have a voice by looking at different words, icons and numbers on a screen fastened to her wheelchair.

It then reads out aloud what she wants to say.


Mother Pleads for Thieves to Return Device

Speaking to ABC Radio Adelaide, Natalie Armitstead, 46, urged the thieves to return the device, saying the family feels devastated because the computer gives her daughter the “opportunity to have her say”.

“Jessica’s physical disability means she doesn’t move her arms so everything is through eye movement,” Ms Armitstead said.

“With the device she is more independent and has greater choice with words and communication – without it, Jessica is relying on people to know what she needs.”

The piece of equipment resembles a laptop and is customised for Jessica’s needs. It also has pictures of her family and animals on it.

“Basically, anyone who is non-verbal can use it, however each device has standard icons on it and then it has these special things, like it has photos of all her family on it, photos of where she likes to go, books she likes to read,” Ms Armitstead said.

The devastated mother also professed the importance of the computer for her daughter’s ability to communicate back with other people.

“The beauty of a child having a device like this is if she’s down the street and someone says ‘hi’ to her she can communicate back,” Ms Armitstead said.

Jessica’s school, Adelaide West Special Education Centre, has loaned her a replacement eye-tracking until hers is recovered.


Communication Device Possibly Mistaken for Laptop, But “No Use” to Anybody Else

Following the theft, Ms Armitstead acknowledged the burglars could have possibly mistaken the device for a laptop or a computer, but that she still wants to mechanism returned “no questions asked”.

“It’s really of no use to anybody else – that’s basically it,” she said.

“I don’t think they realised what they were taking – I’m sure if they did, they would have left it.”

South Australia Police are currently investigating the theft.

A Guide on Larceny Offences and Penalties in NSW

In NSW, stealing, or the crime of taking property or money that belongs to another person, regardless of what the property or the value of it is, is known as larceny.

Larceny offences carry a maximum penalty of 5 years imprisonment if it ends up being finalised in the District Court. This sentence is applied in only the most serious of cases and is rarely imposed.

Larceny is usually finalised in the Local Court. The maximum penalties for larceny depend on the value of the item of money stolen under section 117 Crimes Act 1900 (NSW).

Where the value is over $5,000, the maximum penalty is 2-years prison and/or $5,500 fine.

Where the value is under $5,000, the maximum penalty is 12-months prison and/or $5,500 fine.

Where the value is under $2,000, the maximum penalty is 12-months prison and/or $2,200 fine.

Police can issue an on-the-spot fine (penalty notice) if the stolen item is valued at under $300. If issued an on-the-spot fine or penalty notice, you will not end up having a criminal conviction against your name if the fine is paid. Nor will you be required to attend court.

While, you may court-elect the penalty notice, this will require you to attend court and face a Local Court Magistrate who has the discretion to impose heavier penalties with a criminal conviction.

For a larceny offence, even after pleading guilty to it in court, you may end up walking away from court without having a criminal conviction against your name if the Magistrate or Judge imposes a non-conviction penalty as a sentence for the offence.

To be guilty for the charge of larceny in NSW, the prosecution in court is required to prove each of the following elements beyond reasonable doubt:

  1. You took and carried away the property or money; and
  2. The property or money was either in someone else’s lawful possession or owned by someone else; and
  3. You did this with the intent to permanently deprive that person of it; and
  4. You did this without consent.

Accordingly, it should be noted that an offence of larceny will not take place if the property was taken away for a temporary purpose and not to deprive the owner of it permanently.

Additionally, the offence of larceny is also not committed if you had a genuine belief that you were lawfully entitled to the property.

Larceny commonly gets confused with the offence of robbery; however, the two offences are different.

In contrast to larceny, a robbery offence in NSW is when a person commits a larceny in circumstances he/she inflicts fear into the victim or uses violence on the victim. For example, if you threatened to hit someone and steal their bag.

The maximum penalty for robbery and stealing from a person is 14 years imprisonment under section 94 Crimes Act 1900 (NSW).

Have a question?

Call our criminal defence lawyers to arrange a free first consultation.

We are contactable 24/7 on (02) 8606 2218.

Published on 21/08/2019

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AUTHOR Criminal Defence Lawyers Australia

Criminal Defence Lawyers Australia are Leading Criminal Defence Lawyers, Delivering Exceptional Results in all Australian Courts.

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