Goods in Custody and Receiving Offences
Offences of goods in custody and receiving involve the unlawful possession of property or unlawful disposing of property.
Section 527C Crimes Act sets out the offence of Goods in Custody. The offence involves the situation where a person has anything in his or her custody, or in the custody of another person, or on premises (whether occupied by that person or not), or gives custody of that thing to person who is not lawfully entitled to possession – in circumstances where the ‘thing’ may be reasonably suspected of being stolen or otherwise unlawfully obtained. Except in cases where the property is a car, the penalty is a maximum fine of $500 and imprisonment for up to 6 months.
There is a statutory defence to police charges of this type if the accused satisfies the court that he or she had no reasonable grounds for suspecting that the item was stolen or otherwise unlawfully obtained.
Police often charge people where they are ‘suspicious’ as to their possession of an item – for example, money, or a nice watch, or a new mobile phone. An example of giving property to a person not entitled lawfully to possession includes pawning the item at a pawn brokers.
Aside from the statutory defence, we often defend these charges on the basis that there are no reasonable grounds for suspecting that the item was stolen or unlawfully obtained. Police suspicion is not always reasonable.
Other technical issues that arise in these matters 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 we regularly have success.
Receiving is a more serious charge that carries more significant penalties – up to 10 years imprisonment (more if it involves a motor vehicle). It can be dealt with in the Local Court unless an election is made for it to go to the District Court. Receiving involves receiving property knowing it to be stolen, or disposing or attempting to dispose of it.
Receiving is often treated more harshly than the stealing of the goods – “without the receiver there would be no market for the thief” – therefore by deterring the receiver, there is less of a market for stolen goods.
Often when people are charged with Receiving, they will also be charged with Goods In Custody in case it cannot be proved that the accused knew the items were stolen. Goods in Custody is far easier to prove – but each allegation should be carefully scrutinized by our criminal law specialists.