Stealing items from a shop (shoplifting) is one of the more common charges Queensland magistrate courts deal with on a day to day basis. There is no defined group that commit this charge, more than other types of criminal charges 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.
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 this is especially true for large retailers like supermarkets and places like Bunnings.
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.
Shoplifting over $150
Where the value of the good exceeds $150 the charge becomes stealing or fraud. The major difference to the lessor shoplifting charge is that the court can record a conviction and the penalty will likely increase.
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
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?
The penalty depends on a number of factors including
- The value of the good shoplifted
- Whether the items were returned
- If the items were returned whether they were in good and saleable condition
- The defendants criminal history
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, more details on SPER’s website
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. If the value of the goods are over $150 then the court has the discretion whether to record a conviction or not. When deciding whether to record a conviction to court looks at the following;
- The nature of the offence
- The offenders character and age
- The impact on the offenders
- Economic or social wellbeing; or
- Changes of finding employment
Why engage a Lawyer?
Its simple, experienced criminal lawyers know the law, the magistrates, the prosecutors and the court process. A person without that knowledge will quickly become overwhelmed.
Every week we get calls from people who represented themselves, had a harsh penalty imposed or conviction recorded and are desperate to try and change the outcome which at that stage is almost impossible.
What courts do you cover?
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.
Just some of the courts we appear in for shoplifting are;
What do you charge?
We charge a flat upfront fee for our services that means no hidden charges or unexpected bills.
Our prices include;
- full preparation for court including checking for defences and devising strategy to minimise penalty
- negotiations with the police prosecution unit including obtaining criminal history and charge documents
- drafting submissions for the court
- all telephone calls, emails and meetings with you
- detailed information to you on the likely penalty and information on what will happen at court and afterwards
- appearing in the court with you to conduct your guilty plea
To see what we will for a guilty plea on a shoplifting charge click here
How do I get more information or engage Clarity Law to act for me?
If you want to engage us or just need further no obligation information or advice then you can either;