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Sahar Adatia.


You’d think people living and working in wealthy suburbs might have good reason to be concerned that criminals may strike at some point to steal expensive cars or gadgets or perhaps even jewellery.

But plants?

Indeed, for one brazen and bizarre thief roaming the streets of Perth’s affluent beachside suburb of Swanbourne, a plant was exactly what he was after.

The bold robbery took place on a Sunday evening in July 2021 around 5:45pm at the Ginger Owl, a homewares and lifestyle boutique situated on North Street, and, unbeknownst to the man at the time, his plant pillaging escapade was filmed on security vision.

In the footage, the man can be seen pulling up into a driveway outside the small shop in a small, silver sedan.

He gets out of his vehicle before scanning the surrounding area and then walks to the boot of his vehicle from which he can be seen pulling out a machete.

From there, the man stealthily moves towards the property and spots his victim – a $2,000 cactus planted outside the boutique.

Then, the thief quickly positions himself in front of the succulent before carving off the branches of the plant and loading them into the back of his sedan.

He then simply drives off.


Western Australia Police Spot Sedan in Relation to Two Other Plant Theft Incidents in Days Prior

As Western Australia Police carried out investigations of the plant thief, examinations of further CCTV footage led them to discover a similar sedan in relation to a series of other robberies that took place in the days leading up to the carved cactus.

According to Senior Sergeant Peter Gilmour, in one of the incidents, a sedan was noticed in Floreat on the Friday night, with CCTV footage revealing a man at a home on Tullow Road carrying a bucket and shovel and then digging up three cacti valued at about $300.

In the second incident, the same offender could be seen stealing a cactus worth $350 and endeavouring to “rip” out another from outside the home on the Saturday between 8pm and 2.45am the next morning.

Speaking of the plant theft, Senior Sergeant Gilmour said the situation was not uncommon.

“In my time in the western suburbs I’ve investigated wildflowers and rose bushes being stolen, so it’s quite common here,” he said, speaking to news outlet PerthNow.

The offender is described as being tall with a fair complexion, solidly built, and at the time, was wearing a dark hooded top.

The thief was equipped with a machete, spade, gloves, and a bucket.

Following the series of cactus robberies, police appealed for anyone with information to come forward.

In the last few years and particularly against the COVID-19 pandemic that has witnessed Australians dedicate more time and money to home gardening and in turn fuel demand for greenery, an increasing number of thieves are pillaging plants from front yards and across public spaces.

Many of these end up getting off scot-free, despite the best efforts of residents and landscapers to hunt them down. 

To make matters worse, when it comes to covering the costs of replacing the stolen plants, more often than not, this falls on the responsibility of the resident or the landscapers for housing developments and public parks. 

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Stealing Plants in NSW

While it may not seem obvious, stealing plants from a garden is actually against the law. This is yet amongst the types of stealing offences in NSW.

If you are in NSW, according to section 520 of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW), there is a maximum penalty of up to six months imprisonment, or a fine of $550, or both, where a person is caught stealing, or destroying, or damaging with intent to steal, any plant, root, fruit, or vegetable produce, growing in any garden, orchard, pleasure-ground, nursery-ground, hothouse, greenhouse, or conservatory.

In NSW, plant theft offences are dealt with in the Local Court. A Conviction can be avoided even if guilty if an offenders is sentenced with a section 10 dismissal.

Meanwhile, it should also be noted that plant theft and tree vandalism on public land is also against the law, with offenders facing fines starting from hundreds of dollars, again depending on severity of the circumstances.

In NSW, this offence is outlined in section 521 of the Crimes Act 1900.

Section 521 states that any person caught stealing, destroying or damaging with intent to steal, any cultivated root, or plant, used for the food of man or beast, or for medicine, or for distilling, or dyeing, or for any manufacture, and growing in any enclosed land, not being a garden, orchard, pleasure-ground, or nursery-ground, can face a fine of $220 for the offence.

In NSW, plant theft and tree vandalism on public land cases are also dealt with in the Local Court.

AUTHOR Criminal Defence Lawyers Australia

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