By Sahar Adatia and Jimmy Singh.
“Joyriding” is the term used to describe the act of taking a vehicle and driving it around recreationally without the owner’s consent.
Joyriders are usually young – commonly teens and young adults – and are likely to be driving without a licence or insurance. They also usually have a tendency to drive at dangerously high speeds, often while drunk or on drugs.
In NSW, joyriding is an offence and one that has been in place since 1924. Too often, taking a vehicle without the consent of the owner not only causes distress to the vehicle owner, but also puts both the driver and any passengers, along with the greater public at danger.
This is especially the case when the driver goes on to drive recklessly or irresponsibly, resulting in an accident injuring or killing someone.
Worryingly, when it comes to instances of joyriding, this scenario is all too common.
Case in Point: Man Takes Stolen Truck on Joyride Through Sydney CBD Before Crashing into Café
On 10 April 2019, a man from Sydney’s Northern Beaches allegedly stole a three-tonne truck from a building site and took it for a drunken joyride through the CBD before crashing it into a city café.
Police say around 2am, the 33-year-old man jumped in the truck, which was parked near Martin Place for light rail construction works, and drove it through the worksite.
However, the culprit managed to drive only a short distance before smashing through the front windows of Regiment CBD Café nearby on George Street.
Hero Tradies Chase 33-Year-Old Along George Street and Detain Him Until Police Arrive
While the man attempted to drive away, a group of construction workers on site chased the offender along George Street. They managed to haul him out of the cabin and hold him until the police turned up.
Shortly after 2am, police arrived on the scene upon reports that light rail construction workers had detained the intoxicated man who stole the truck from their worksite.
“Construction workers gave chase on foot and physically removed the man from the truck and detained him until officers arrived,” NSW Police said in a statement.
The man, from Queenscliff, returned a positive roadside breath test.
He was arrested and charged with multiple offences, including taking and driving a conveyance without the consent of the owner, driving recklessly/furiously or in a dangerous manner, driving during a disqualification period and low-range drink driving.
A “Rude Awakening” for Owner of Regiment CBD Café
A few hours following the incident, owner of Regiment CBD Cafe Zach Hiotis was informed of the incident and said he had a “rude awakening” upon hearing the news.
He said one of the chefs working at his cafe texted him saying there had been an “emergency”.
When Mr Hiotis found out the thick glass panel at the front of the shop had “cracks in it”, he wondered what “would have broken it”.
“The severity is there but we can carry on. What else am I going to do?” he said.
“I am grateful no one was hurt.”
Mr Hiotis was advised it would take about a month to replace the glass panel. Nevertheless, he said he was determined the shop will continue to trade as normal.
The Thrill of Joyriding: Why People Engage in the Act
Joyriding is a common practice amongst teens and young adults, and for this age group, is almost considered a rite of passage that cuts across racial and social lines, and that is as prevalent in rural and suburban communities as it is the inner city.
The youngsters, typically male, crave what the automobiles promise to deliver – control, mobility and freedom.
In a study delving into perceptions on joyriding found in Crime Prevention and Community Safety: An International Journal, it was found that joyriding behaviour reveals a complex pattern of motivational factors.
Joyriding is considered a pleasurable and thrilling form of risk-taking that provides young males in particular with a way of developing their masculine identity when legitimate avenues have been closed off.
It so follows that joyriding is thus associated with social marginalisation. Indeed, adolescents who have been exposed to a range of risk factors in early childhood and adolescence are more likely to be involved in such types of delinquent behaviour, with peer relationships playing a key role in a person’s initial involvement with the act. Novices tend to learn the skills of car stealing from experienced offenders, almost as in the form of an apprenticeship.
The study also revealed that offenders are usually unperturbed by the formal and informal sanctions associated with joyriding. Overwhelmingly, most offenders tend to not consider vehicle theft to be a serious offence, nor do they think of the risk of apprehension or feel that they will be caught.
Meanwhile, in terms of discouraging offenders from the act, situational measures were deterring were those that increased the perceived effort and increased the perceived risk of stealing a car.
What is the Law and Penalties for Joyriding or Taking a Conveyance without Consent in NSW?
In NSW, the offence of joyriding is legally referred to as “taking a conveyance without consent of owner”.
‘Conveyance’ here includes a motor vehicle, caravan, trailer, cab, carriage, cart, wagon, tractor, earth moving equipment, omnibus, motor, bicycle, tank, military vehicle, ship, vessel intended to be used for navigation.
It is a crime in NSW to take and drive a conveyance without the consent of the owner or without the consent of the person who at the time was in lawful possession of it.
It’s also a crime take a conveyance without consent for purposes of either driving it, secreting it, or obtaining a reward for restoring or pretending to restore it (or for any fraudulent purpose).
It is also a criminal offence to drive or allow yourself to be carried in a conveyance where you knew that it has been taken without consent.
Committing any of the above offences will be considered a larceny under the law. The maximum penalty for this offence is 5-years imprisonment if it ends up being dealt with in the District Court (in respect to an individual person and incorporated bodies).
Where the offence ends up being dealt with in the Local Court, the maximum penalty is up to 2-years imprisonment and/or $5,500 fine (in respect to an individual person and incorporated bodies).
This is reflected in section 154A Crimes Act 1900 (NSW).
The criminal offence of larceny in NSW carries heavy penalties. It is committed when a person takes and carries something away without consent from the owner, with the intention to permanently deprive the owner of it.
The offence varies to the offence of stealing a motor vehicle or vessel, which is more serious.
Have a question? Call our friendly criminal lawyers located in Parramatta and Sydney, with six other locations across NSW. We offer a free first appointment.