What is the Maximum Penalty for Stealing from a House or Building in NSW?

By Sahar Adatia and Jimmy Singh.


They’re the tell-tale signs that your home has been broken into: Damaged doors, smashed windows, open drawers, crap everywhere on the floor, sometimes even a crap in the toilet (apparently burglars get nervous).

But for one Massachusetts man, the frightening realisation that his house had been intruded came with a strange surprise – rather than being ransacked, his home was cleaned from top to bottom, and left tidier than when he left it.

On 15 May 2019, Nate Roman returned to his Marlborough home from work to find his house had been broken into after his five-year-old son spotted the back door was left open.

The 44-year-old quietly entered his home, afraid of an encounter with the burglar.

However, after a scour of the premises, the man quickly recognised that his house was actually in a cleaner state than when he left it.

It was as if someone had entered the house, cleaned it entirely, then happily left.


Home Invader Steals Nothing, Makes Beds, Tidies Up Son’s Stuffed Animals, and Leaves Origami Rose on Toilet Paper

It turns out that the home invader – rather than stealing anything – had actually made all of the beds, neatly stacked his son’s stuffed animals, vacuumed the rugs, and even spent some time to leave an origami rose on the toilet paper.

“It was terrifying to know someone was in your house. They scrubbed everything down. They did the shower, did the toilets,” Mr Roman told ABC7 News.

“I was immediately worried that someone was in the house,” he said.

In fact, every single room in the house had been polished down – all except for the kitchen.

Bewildered and unsure what to think, Mr Roman eventually decided to call the police.

Safe to say, however, you can’t get much better service than that.


Mr Roman Shares Theory of Break-In on Social Media

Mr Roman was quick to share an image of the intruder’s skilful, handcrafted toilet paper roses to social media, along with a recap of the experience.

“Today, while I was at work, a stranger entered my house,” Mr Roman wrote.

“It’s possible that I forgot to lock the back door, they didn’t break anything while entering.

“I usually forget to arm my alarm during the day, but unfortunately that also happened, so I don’t have any video, despite having cameras.”

Mr Roman also went on to share a “before” and “after” photo of his son’s room, revealing the unexpected guest’s handiwork in clearing up the mess of toys usually strewn about.

“It was a mess when I left that morning,” he said.

Ultimately, Mr Roman concluded that because of the toilet paper roses, it was likely a cleaning service that arrived at the wrong house.

“My best theory at this point is that a housekeeping service accidentally went to the wrong address,” Mr Roman said.

“It’s still weird and creepy AF. No idea what to think about this.”

Nonetheless, for the sake of precaution, Mr Roman decided to change all the locks to his house believing that the next intruder may not be as courteous.


Home Burglary in Australia Statistics

Burglary is classified as any offence involving unlawfully entering a dwelling or other building to steal property, usually at night.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, between 2016 and 2017, approximately 2.5% of Australian households suffered one break-in, however only 75% reported the incident to the police.

Of those break-ins reported, 74% of the households had property stolen, while 49% had property damaged.

In one in 10 households that were broken into, the offender confronted someone.

By state, in 2017, the Northern Territory experienced the highest percentage of break-ins vs population at 5% of households, followed by Western Australia at 4.3% of households.

South Australia had the lowest percentage of break-ins per population at 1.9% of households.

New South Wales sat at 2% of households.


Australia vs Global

In 2016, Australia had the fifth highest rate of burglaries in the world.

Interestingly, the four countries with higher rates of burglary than Australia – Chile, Denmark, Austria, Sweden – all had much smaller populations.


Items Most Likely to be Stolen from a Property

Meanwhile, an analysis of objects stolen in Australian burglary cases revealed the top ten items most likely to be taken. These included:

  1. Cash
  2. Laptops
  3. Jewellery
  4. Cameras
  5. Phones
  6. Wallets, handbags, purses
  7. Identification documents
  8. Televisions
  9. Computer and video game equipment
  10. Watches

The Law on Stealing Property in a Dwelling-House in NSW

In NSW, it is a criminal offence to steal property in a dwelling-house. This offence has a maximum penalty of 7-years imprisonment under section 148 Crimes Act 1900 (NSW).

This offence refers to ‘stealing property’ which is also called larceny under the law in NSW.

In order for a court to find you guilty of stealing in a dwelling-house in NSW, the prosecution must first prove each of the following elements beyond reasonable doubt:

  1. You took and carried someone’s property away; and
  2. You intended to permanently deprive the owner of that property; and
  3. The property taken and carried away was from in a dwelling-house; and
  4. You had no consent to do this.

A “dwelling-house” here includes a building or structure intended for occupation capable of being occupied, regardless of whether it is occupied. It includes a vehicle or boat or any building or structure that’s in the same curtilage as the dwelling-house “and occupied therewith or whose use is ancillary to the occupation of it”.

An underground car park of an apartment complex, for example also includes the same ‘curtilage’ as the resident’s dwelling- making an underground car park of an apartment complex to come under the definition of a dwelling-house. (DPP v Williams [2018] NSWSC).

Stealing a car is a criminal offence in NSW with a maximum penalty of up to 10-year imprisonment. However, it is not the same offence as stealing property in a dwelling-house in NSW.

The court will find you not guilty of this offence if a valid defence to this charge applies. An example of a defence to this charge include a claim of right to the property. This applies if you honestly believed to have a legal entitlement to the property.

Our criminal lawyers are located in Sydney city, Liverpool, Penrith and five more locations across NSW. Call us if you have a question on our 24/7 hotline (02) 8606 2218.

About Criminal Defence Lawyers Australia

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