Fraud and Theft
There is a large number of criminal offences that fall into the category of fraud. Commonly charged offences of fraud are:
- Obtaining Property by Deception;
- Obtaining Financial Advantage by Deception;
- Attempting to Pervert the Course of Justice or Perverting the Course of Justice;
- Dealing in Property Suspected of Being the Proceeds of Crime; and
- False Accounting.
The particularly damaging aspect of being charged and being found guilty of an offence of fraud, or dishonestly, is that it taints the perception of the character of the accused. A person with a criminal history for an offence of fraud is more likely to be viewed as a less trustworthy person, or a dishonest person. This can adversely impact the employment prospects of an accused, and other areas of their life.
Theft is a crime that involves dishonestly taking the property of another person with the intention of permanently depriving that person of the property.
The seriousness of the charge of theft will depend on the value of the property. Another factor taken into consideration is whether Victoria Police alleges that the accused stole once, or stole on a number of occasions over a period of time.
Another matter taken into consideration by the Court when dealing with the charge of theft is who was permanently deprived of the property. For example, was a friend, neighbour or relative stolen from? Was the accused’s employer stolen from? Was the accused in a position of trust? These matters influence the way in which the Court views the offending, and ultimately, the sentence imposed.
In order for a person to be found guilty of theft, the Prosecution must prove each of the following elements beyond reasonable doubt:
- The accused appropriated property belonging to another;
- The accused did so with the intention of permanently depriving the other of the property; and
- The accused acted dishonestly.
Theft is a dishonesty offence. A finding of guilt for the offence of theft can impact others’ perception of the accused’s character. It can make it more difficult for an accused to obtain employment. A person with a criminal record for the charge of theft may be seen as less trustworthy or simply dishonest.
The circumstances of the alleged theft have a significant impact on how the case is defended. For example, sometimes an accused person will state that they had no intention to permanently deprive the other person of the property, or the accused person may legitimately believe they had a legal right to the property.
Under section 74 of the Crimes Act 1958, the maximum penalty for theft in Victoria is 10 years’ imprisonment. The charge of theft can be heard in the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria, or in a higher court, such as the County Court of Victoria or Supreme Court of Victoria.