Law on Stealing Plants in NSW

By Sahar Adatia and Jimmy Singh.


Australians spend a considerable amount of time and money landscaping their gardens and adding a touch of green to their homes.

Not only do plants look pleasing, they can also improve air quality and have positive impacts for people’s mental health.

It’s a trend too that’s seen widespread popularity for cafes and restaurants, with nurseries trying to keep up with demand as owners decorate their premises.

Alas, plants don’t always come cheap, and sometimes, the temptation to steal can be all too real, especially when it comes to green thumbs of the kleptomaniac breed.

Take, for example, a Sydney man who allegedly decided he would pilfer two expensive pot plants from the powerful and feared publicist Roxy Jacenko, which were displayed in the garden outside her Sweaty Betty PR office.

The plants – two fiddle leaf fig trees – were valued at $900, leaving the PR mogul disgusted and on quite an adventure to track the man down.


CCTV Footage Captures Man Casually Walking Up and Stealing Ms Jacenko’s Pot Plants; Rapidly Tracks Him Down

In June 2019, Ms Jacenko was dismayed to learn of the disappearance of her two fiddle leaf figs, which she quickly discovered had been stolen from outside her Paddington business, thanks to CCTV footage.

The saga unfolded on her Instagram page, where she shared CCTV footage of the man strolling up and pinching the plants.

Fittingly, she captioned the video writing, “Now. What the actual F¥&K,” she captioned the post. “This bloke just stole my fiddle leaf figs whilst I was giving them some sun and water?! Know the culprit? Comment below so I can go and collect them.”

With the help of locals, Ms Jacenko managed to make a successful identification from the CCTV video and then chose to confront the man at his workplace to demand her stolen fiddle leaf fig trees be returned.

During a shift the man had at a local thrift shop, which turned out to be just a short walk away from the PR office, the then 39-year-old approached her thief face-to-face, expressing her sheer fury and turning into the fiery publicity tycoon she is renowned for.

The clash was filmed by one of Ms Jacenko’s Sweaty Betty PR employees and uploaded to Instagram for the viewing pleasure of her then 233,000 followers.


Perpetrator Claims He Only Took Fig Trees Because Plants Were “Outside for Ages”

In an arguably laugh-out-loud moment during the furious encounter, the perpetrator claimed he only took the fig trees from outside Ms Jacenko’s office because the plants were “outside for ages”, leading him to believe they did not belong to anyone.

As expected, the PR mogul responded dumbfoundedly that the plants were obviously outside because they need sun.

“You stole my plants! I’m disgusted,” she yelled, to which the man replied saying, “I know! I’m so sorry!”

“So, do you want to give me the plants back?!” the irate business owner fired back.

Moments later, the man proceeded to return Ms Jacenko’s two fiddle leaf fig trees back to her.

In the video, Ms Jacenko established the plants were like family members to her and emphasised the exorbitant price tag they came with.

Prior to this, she had shared a video of her son, Hunter, finding two leaves that were left behind on the footpath from the fig trees, describing them as “evidence” in the case.

The Law on Stealing Plants in NSW

The offence of larceny is also known as stealing.

kleptomaniacs are a rare breed.

Nevertheless, whether you identify as one or not, in NSW, stealing plants and the like from gardens is against the law.

Should you be guilty of committing the act, the offence carries a maximum penalty of up to six months in jail and/or a fine of $550, and is dealt with in the Local Court. It also carries a criminal conviction, unless a section 10 sentence is imposed.

In NSW, the law on stealing plants etc from gardens is outlined in section 520 of the Crimes Act 1900.

Section 520 makes clear that a person who steals, or destroys, or damages with intent to steal, any plant, root, fruit, or vegetable produce, growing in any garden, orchard, pleasure-ground, nursery-ground, hothouse, greenhouse, or conservatory, is guilty.

Additionally, it is also a criminal offence to steal plants that are not growing however are being used, or that are going to be used, for food, medicine, dyeing or distillation.

Any such offences carry a maximum penalty of a $220 fine.

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