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Christmas is the season of giving, but for some, it’s also the season of taking. Lawyer Ugur Nedim outlines what do you if you’re caught Shoplifting.
As Christmas approaches, we are treated to longer store opening hours and enticed by all kinds of shopping offers to make the most of the festive season. Some, however, take that to a literal level.
The large crowds and busy sales assistants can create an ideal environment for people looking to get the ultimate bargain (or colloquially – the ‘five finger discount’). Regardless of what powers such a decision, be it those who simply can’t afford to pay, or choose not to, retail stores report significant increases in shoplifting over the holiday season, estimating that $1.4 billion worth of goods are stolen nationwide in the six weeks leading up to Christmas.
In fact, shoplifting is the only one of seventeen major offences to increase in the past year.
Due to this, security guards, loss prevention officers and police are aware that the festive season is a time when levels spike, and thusly, are out in force to detect retail theft.
Between 8 and 11 December this year, a police blitz named ‘Operation Lightfingers’ resulted in 94 people being charged with over 100 criminal offences. The operation targeted Sydney’s CBD, Bondi shopping centre and Broadway.
Typical items that are given as gifts, along with food, were two of the most common categories of property stolen during the blitz, including ham, jewellery, clothes and fragrances, with a total value of around $3500.
A 38-year-old woman is due to appear in Downing Centre Local Court on 11 January 2016 after being charged with shoplifting twice in the same day.
Police have warned they will continue to target shoplifting in the lead up to Christmas and the Boxing Day sale period.
Shoplifting fits under section 117 of the Crimes Act 1900, as a type of ‘larceny’ (or theft). Police have two options if they suspect a person has shoplifted. If the value of the goods is less than $300, they may choose to issue a criminal infringement notice in the amount of $300. Payment of the fine means the end of the matter, and no criminal record is recorded.
Anyone who wants to dispute the fine can choose to take the case to court, where a magistrate will ultimately decide guilt or innocence. If the person is found guilty, they will face the possibility of a criminal record.
Alternatively, police may issue a Court Attendance Notice, which means the matter will need to go to court. The maximum penalty for theft of goods worth under $5000 is 12 months imprisonment and/or a $5,500 fine. However, this is the maximum penalty only, and the court may impose a number of different penalties, ranging from a section 10 dismissal – which means you avoid a criminal record – to a fine, a good behaviour bond or community service.
The most common penalty for shoplifting is a fine, which is also etched on your criminal record.
What should I do if I’m charged?
If you have a valid defence or are otherwise not guilty, a good lawyer will be able to fight for the case to be withdrawn or thrown out of court.
If you wish to plead guilty, they will assist you to prepare for court by advising about the preparation of an apology letter and character references, and will seek to persuade the magistrate in court to give you the most lenient penalty – including ‘section 10’, which means no criminal record.
If you are suffering from a mental health condition, they can help you to get the assistance you need and fight for your case to be dismissed in court due to your condition.