Clarity Law

Specialist Criminal Law Firm Queensland
Wednesday, 03 May 2017 13:16

Stealing from Work

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Stealing from Work

Stealing from work or more correctly stealing as a servant means stealing money or goods through your employment.  It is an extremely serious charge and is not dealt with lightly by the courts.  

Generally we have found these charges involve the taking of cash directly from the till or taking of stock. The charges with higher amounts usually involved the changing of invoices, the transfer of money from the business bank account or manipulation of the EFTPOS machine.


What does the law say?

The law on stealing as an employee is the following:

                Stealing by clerks and servants

If the offender is a clerk or servant, and the thing stolen is the property of the offender’s employer, or came into the possession of the offender on account of the offender’s employer, the offender is liable to imprisonment for 10 years.


What is a servant?

The law refers to clerks and servants. They define this to mean:

any person employed for any purpose as or in the capacity of a clerk or servant, or as a collector of money, although temporarily only, or although employed also by other persons than the person alleged to be the person’s employer, or although employed to pay as well as receive money, and any person employed as or in the capacity of a commission agent for the collection or disbursement of money, or in any similar capacity, although the person has no authority from the person’s employer to receive money or other property on the employer’s account.

Really its just an old school way of saying employee.


What court will hear this charge?

In most cases the Magistrates Court will hear and determine the charge.

If the amount stolen exceeds $30,000 then in some cases the District Court will hear the charge. Whatever the cases the charge will always start out in the Magistrates Court.


What does the prosecutor have to prove?

The prosecutor would need to prove all of the following;

  1. The defendant was an employee, clerk or servant

  2. The item taken was capable of being stolen

  3. The item taken was owned by the employer

  4. The item was taken without the consent of the employer

  5. The item was taken with fraudulent intent

For more information see our stealing webpage


What defences exist to stealing from work?

A number of possible defences exists including;

  1. There was not fraudulent intent in talking the item

  2. The person taking the things was not a servant or clerk

  3. Mistake of fact

  4. The Employer gave consent to take the item


Could the charges be reduced or withdrawn?

It is possible to negotiate with the prosecutor over the charges. This is known as case conferencing and usually occurs once the police prosecutors brief (known as the QP9) is provided to the defendant or their lawyer.

The QP9 will set out what the police prosecutor intends to tell the court happened. This includes the details of the alleged stealing, the amount involved or goods taken and the general circumstances.

It takes an experienced criminal lawyer to advise on the possibility of negotiating the charge with the prosecutor.


What is the likely penalty for stealing from my employer?

The maximum penalty is 10 years if heard in the District Court or 3 years if heard in the Magistrates Court.

Statistics from the courts show that the charge results in imprisonment in 55% of cases. This doesn’t mean all of those people served time in prison as the court can allow a person not to serve time in prison by wholly suspending the sentence or granting an immediate parole release.

Check out our article on sentences of imprisonment which explains more.

In any circumstances where money or goods are obtained deceitfully or fraudulently, whether from an employer, business or an individual client the charge is dealt with harshly and can easily result in a person serving jail time and having a conviction recorded. Stealing as a servant has always tended to result in harsh sentences due to the opportunities for concealment it provides and the betrayal of trust it involves.  It will always be more harshly punished than stealing.

When sentencing you the Magistrate or Judge will look at the following to determine the penalty:

  • facts and circumstances including the amount stolen

  • whether the money has been paid back or goods returned

  • the time span over which the stealing was carried out

  • how sophisticated the offending was

  • the defendants criminal history

  • the personal circumstances i.e. financial hardship, mental health issues, remorse etc.


An example of the severity of the nature of this charge can be demonstrated in a Queensland caseR v Jenkins, wherein a man was found guilty of 3 separate charges of theft of less than a total of $3,000 in cash and liquor from his employment over a period of less than 3 months.

His charges were comprised of the following:

Charge 1 - stealing the sum of $170 from his employer

Charge 2 -  stealing the sum of $1,995 from his employer

Charge 3 -  dishonestly applying to his own use a quantity of liquor belonging to his employer to the value of $765.60 (incl GST).

The total amount being $2,930.60.

The matter was dealt with in the Brisbane District Court and the sentence handed down was 9 months imprisonment for each offence, to be served concurrently and suspended after 3 months (meaning after serving 3 months actual jail time Jenkins was released).  In that case the court said

Stealing as a servant has always tended to attract heavier sentences because of the opportunities for concealment it provides and the betrayal of trust it involves

If you are charged with stealing as a servant there are multiple steps we can take to help ensure you receive the best possible outcome. Getting legal advice early however is the key.

See our article on How the court sets a sentence in Queensland for more information.


Can no conviction be recorded even when I stole from work?

When deciding whether to record a conviction the 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

In R v Bryant the stated in regards to regarding a conviction for a stealing as a servant charge;

It is the recording of the conviction that is the applicant's real concern because it may put her at a disadvantage in applying for future employment of this or other kinds. But I consider that prospective employers are entitled to know about such matters and to make up their own minds about the risks involved in employing persons who have committed offences of this kind. It is no part of or function of judges to conceal such information from them. 

As you can see getting no conviction is tough, not impossible but very difficult.  For more information on what the recording of a conviction means click here



My employer wants to talk to me about money missing

An admission made to an employer about the nature of a potential crime could be used in a criminal court.


I keep getting calls from co-workers asking what is happening

The police or employer will sometimes use pretext calls trying to get someone to admit to an offence. You should never discuss an alleged offence with any co-worker.


Will I lose my job for stealing?

You will need to speak to an employment lawyer urgently to understand your rights to retain your employment.


My employer has said pay the money back and that’s the end

Paying the money back or returning the goods does not stop the employer from then going to the police to report the alleged stealing.


The police tuned up at my house with a search warrant

The police will often use search warrants to search an accused house to search for evidence especially if it is physical items that is alleged to have been taken.


A conviction will stop me from getting another job

The courts often take the view unless there is good reason then a conviction should be recorded. Only an experienced criminal defence will be able to tell you if it’s possible for no conviction to be recorded.

See our article on recording of a conviction.


The police have contacted me and want to talk about an alleged theft from work?

You should never talk to police without getting legal advice.

For more information see our articles on Declining a police interview and Police questioning and your right to silence in Queensland


Why should I engage Clarity Law?

Quite frankly we care about getting the right outcome for our clients and helping them through one of the most difficult times in their lives.

In the face of a criminal law charge, selecting the right legal representation is paramount, and Clarity Law offers a unique blend of proficiency and empathy that sets us apart. Our firm is dedicated to providing clarity in the often complex world of criminal law. We believe that every client deserves a clear understanding of their rights and the legal process they're navigating.

Our experienced team of lawyers approaches each case with a commitment to open communication, ensuring you're informed every step of the way. With a proven track record of securing favourable outcomes, we have the expertise to navigate even the most intricate legal challenges.

At Clarity Law, we strive not only to be your staunch advocates but also to provide a supportive, understanding environment during this trying time. Choosing Clarity Law means choosing a team that will tirelessly work to protect your rights and pursue the best possible outcome for your case.

You can read more about our founder, Steven Brough’s, journey to starting Clarity Law by clicking here.


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 stealing are;

Beaudesert Magistrates Court

Beenleigh Magistrates Court

Brisbane Magistrates Court

Caloundra Magistrates Court

Caboolture Magistrates Court

Cleveland Magistrates Court

Coolangatta Magistrates Court

Gatton Magistrates Court

Gympie Magistrates Court

Holland Park Magistrates Court

Ipswich Magistrates Court

Maroochydore Magistrates Court

Nambour Magistrates Court

Noosa Magistrates Court

Pine Rivers Magistrates Court

Richlands Magistrates Court

Redcliffe Magistrates Court

Sandgate Magistrates Court

Southport Magistrates Court

Toowoomba Magistrates Court

Wynnum Magistrates Court


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
  • contacting the police prosecution unit to obtain the QP9 and relevant 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 stealing charge click here or contact us for a quote.


How do I get more information or engage you to act for me? 

If you want to engage us or just need further information or advice then you can either;

  1. Use our contact form and we will contact you by email or phone at a time that suits you

  2. Call us on 1300 952 255 seven days a week, 7am to 7pm

  3. Click here to select a time for us to have a free 15 minute telephone conference with you

  4. Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

  5. Send us a message on Facebook Messenger

  6. Click the help button at the bottom right and leave us a message

We are a no pressure law firm, we are happy to provide free initial information to assist you. If you want to engage us then great, we will give you a fixed price for our services so you will know with certainty what we will cost. All the money goes into a trust account monitored by the Queensland Law Society and cannot be taken out without your permission.

If you don’t engage us that fine too, at least you will have more information on the charge and its consequences.


Other articles that may be of interest

Disclaimer – this article contains general advice only and is not intended to be a substitute for legal advice.  Its represents information about the law in Queensland and since publishing the law or the interpretation of that law may have changed.

Read 15652 times Last modified on Thursday, 22 February 2024 19:38
Steven Brough

Steven Brough is a criminal defence lawyer and founder of Clarity Law with over 22 years experience he has appeared in almost every court in Queensland representing clients charged with criminal offences and getting them the best outcome possible.