Stealing items from a shop (shoplifting) is one of the more common charges Queensland courts deal with on a day to day basis. There is no defined group that commit this charge more than others it spans all genders, races and socio-economic groups.
What is shoplifting?
There are actually two different charges under Queensland law for shoplifting, that is shoplifting if the alleged theft involved good less than $150 or stealing where the goods are alleged to have cost more than $150. In this article we are looking at shoplifting under $150. This charge is known as unauthorised dealing with shop goods. The Regulatory Offences Act defines this type of shoplifting as follows;
5 UNAUTHORISED DEALING WITH SHOP GOODS
(1) Any person who, with respect to goods in a shop of a value of $150 or less—
(a) consumes them without the consent, express or implied, of the person in lawful possession of them; or
(b) deliberately alters, removes, defaces or otherwise renders indistinguishable a price shown on them, without the consent, express or implied, of the person in lawful possession of them; or
(c) whether or not the property in the goods has passed to the person, takes them away without discharging, or attempting honestly, or making proper arrangements, to discharge his or her lawful indebtedness therefor;
is guilty of a regulatory offence and, subject to section 9, is liable to a fine of 6 penalty units.
(1A) Without limiting subsection (1) (b) , a price may be shown on goods by a bar code or a similar device.
(2) It is a defence to a charge of an offence defined in subsection (1) (c) to prove the taking away of the goods was not dishonest.
As you can see you can be charged with unauthorised dealing with shop goods where the value of the goods is less than $150 and you cannot show that the taking of the goods was not dishonest.
Generally if you are caught shoplifting then the store will ring the police who will attend and seek a statement from you and perhaps seek to look at any CCTV footage available. It is company policy for many retailers to always ring the police when they suspect items have been stolen by someone.
If the police believe that the shoplifting can be proven they will issue a notice to appear in court to the person suspect of shoplifting. The notice to appear commands that the person must appear in the Magistrates court closet to where the offence is alleged to have occurred.
What happens in court
What happens in court very much depends if a person is pleading guilty or not guilty.
If a person is pleading guilty then generally at court or ideally before court the prosecutor will give you a document called a police prosecutors court brief which everyone shortens to QP9. The QP9 sets out what the police say happened and the value of the goods taken. The police prosecutor doesn’t hand the QP9 to the Magistrates but reads from it to inform the court what occurred. The police will then hand to the Magistrate any criminal history the person may have.
The Magistrates will then ask the defendant to comment on what the police prosecutor has said and anything they want to tell the Magistrate about themselves and the penalty to be imposed.
The Magistrate will then proceed to impose the penalty.
Where a person says they were not guilty as they were not dishonest in taking the goods or did not take the goods at all then the process is different. In that case what occurs is the court will adjourn the matter to allow negotiations with the police prosecutor to try and resolve the charge. This is known as case conferencing. We have a comprehensive article on case conferencing www.claritylaw.com.au/blog/item/23-negotiating-with-a-prosecutor-in-queensland.html
If the case conferencing is not successful then the court will order that the police provide the defendant will all the evidence and statements. Once that is done then a trial will take place.
What are the Penalties
In general, for a first offence the court will be looking to impose a fine or a good behaviour bond.
A fine is fairly self-explanatory. Any fine can be referred to the State Penalty Enforcement Registry (“SPER”) for a payment plan to be sorted out. SPER’s website is at www.qld.gov.au/law/fines-and-penalties/state-penalties-enforcement-registry.
The court might also order compensation for any goods not returned or damaged.
The court may also look to impose a good behaviour bond. A good behaviour bond is a promise that you will not break the law for a period of time.
You will need to sign a document called a recognisance in which you accept that you have an obligation to be of good behaviour for a period of time and it will list an amount of money you must pay to the court if you break the law while under the good behaviour bond.
Good behaviour bonds typically last between 6 and 12 months.
If you break the law while you are on the good behaviour bond you will have to pay an amount money ordered by the court and the court may issue a warrant for you to be arrested and brought back to the court for the original offence and given a different sentence.
If you do not break the law while you are on the good behaviour bond then you pay no money and the bond is finished.
No conviction is recorded for a shoplifting offence where the value of the goods are less than $150.
How do I get more information or engage Clarity Law to act for me?
If you want to engage us or just need further information or advice then you can either;
We cover all courts in South East Queensland from Southport to Gympie and out to Toowoomba. We are also a criminal law firm, we don’t do any other type of law so we are in the courts every day helping people with charges like this.