Goods in custody charges NSW

The possession of property likely to have been stolen is commonly known as “goods in custody”. This offence is criminalised under section 527C(1) of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) and referred to as “persons unlawfully in possession of property”.  It occurs when:

  • A person had anything either in their custody, in the custody of another person, on their premises, or they gave custody to a person not lawfully entitled to possession, and
  • That thing may be reasonably suspected of being stolen or unlawfully obtained.

 

Goods in custody examples

Examples of goods in custody include:

  • Buying a new TV from someone selling it on the street.
  • Accepting a gift of clothes that still have the security tag on.

 

Penalties

The potential penalties for this offence depend on the type of property stolen or unlawfully obtained.

If the property was a motor vehicle or vessel (or a part of either), then the maximum penalty is one year imprisonment and/or a fine of 10 penalty units. For any other type of property, the maximum penalty is six months imprisonment and/or a fine of five penalty units. The penalty unit amount at the time of this writing (June 2021) is $110.

People can receive a broad range of penalties for this offence including a fine, Conditional Release Order, or Community Correction Order. It is also possible for no conviction to be recorded.

 

Receiving stolen property

Dealing with stolen property is a crime under section 188 of the Crimes Act. The offence is called “receiving stolen property” and occurs where:

  • Property has been stolen, and
  • A person receives, or disposes of, or attempts to dispose of the property,
  • Knowing that it has been stolen.

 

Receiving stolen property examples

Examples of receiving goods in custody include:

  • Buying headphones from someone who told you they’d been stolen.
  • Spending cash your friend took from someone’s handbag.

 

What is the penalty for receiving stolen goods?

Receiving stolen goods is a more serious offence than goods in custody, and carries more significant penalties.

The penalties for this offence depend on the type of property received. If the property is a motor vehicle or vessel (or a part of either), then the maximum penalty is 12 years imprisonment. For any other types of property, the maximum penalty is 10 years imprisonment.

If the offence remains in the Local Court, then the maximum penalty is two years imprisonment.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Where will the matter be heard?

Goods in custody offences will ordinarily be dealt with in the Local Court. In rare circumstances, they may be heard in the District Court, but this would usually only occur if a defendant is also charged with further more serious offences that must be dealt with by the District Court.

What are the defences to goods in custody?

Even if the magistrate finds that a reasonable person would have suspected the goods were unlawfully obtained, a possible statutory defence is that the accused did not have reasonable grounds to suspect that the item was stolen or unlawfully obtained. The accused has to prove this on the balance of probabilities.

Aside from the statutory defence, charges can be defended on the basis that the police had no reasonable grounds for suspecting that the item was stolen or unlawfully obtained. Police suspicion is not always reasonable and they often charge people where they are “suspicious” as to their possession of an item; for example, money, a nice watch or a new mobile phone.

Other issues which may arise in these matters and prevent a finding of guilt include the concept of possession, which requires knowledge. If you did not know the item existed, how could you possess it? The timing of the possession is another aspect where a charge could be successfully defended. However, for any of these defences, it is first necessary to seek the advice of a legal professional.

What is the difference between goods in custody and receiving stolen property?

One of the main differences is the knowledge requirement. Receiving stolen property charges require the prosecution to prove that the accused knew that the items were stolen. Goods in custody charges only require the prosecution to show that a reasonable person would suspect they were stolen. Because of this, receiving stolen property is harder to prove and people charged with this offence will often also be charged with goods in custody in case the receiving charge fails.

Another difference relates to what is being done with the property. The offence of goods in custody is about suspicious possession, while receiving stolen property seeks to cover dealing with stolen property generally, including trying to dispose of, or sell, the property. It covers a wider range of more serious conduct.

Why are the penalties for receiving stolen property more serious than larceny (stealing)?

The maximum penalties for receiving stolen property are higher than for the offence of larceny (stealing). Courts consider that without the receiver there would be no market for the thief. By imposing harsher sentences, they seek to deter the receiver and reduce the market for stolen goods.

How can we help?

We are experienced in successfully defending goods in custody and receiving charges.

Book a free consultation or call us on 1300 668 484 for 24/7 legal advice.