Going Equipped for Stealing

Going Equipped for Stealing

This charge is generally laid in situations where a person, when not at their place of residence, has with them any article for use in the course or in connection with any burglary, theft or cheat.

The legislation is preventative in nature. It allows for perceived preparation of an act to be grounds for police intervention.
Equipped for stealing
This charge is regularly heard in the Magistrates’ Court.
What is the legal definition of Going Equipped for Stealing?
A person shall be guilty do a summary offence if, we hen not as his place of abode, he has with him any article for use in the court of or in connection with any burglary, theft or cheat.

Examples of Going Equipped for Stealing
  • A person discovered inside a business or place of significance with a bolt cutter style instrument in a bag you are carrying.
  • A person is discovered on CCTV taking a lead and collar to a house they do not live in in order to apprehend a dog that does not belong to them.
  • A person is in a public ‘designated area’ where police have more coercive powers to search people in the absence of a warrant. They are observed going in and out of convenience stores and upon being searched a plastic gun and gloves are discovered in their pockets.
This legislation comes from section 91 of the Crimes Act 1958.

  1. A person shall be guilty of a summary offence if, when not at his place of abode, he has with him any article for use in the course of or in connection with any burglary, theft or cheat.
  2. A person guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable to level 7 imprisonment (2 years maximum).
  3. Where a person is charged with an offence under this section, proof that he had with him any article made or adapted for use in committing a burglary, theft or cheat shall be evidence that he had it with him for such use.
  4. On the conviction of a person for an offence under this section, the court may order the article to be forfeited to the Crown and disposed of in the manner set out in the order.1
Elements of the offence
To prove this charge the Police must show that the accused had an article with them for the purpose of a theft, burglary or cheat. The accused must not have been at their place of residence at the time of the offence.

[1] Crimes Act 1958 (vic) s 91
Possible defences to this charge could be duress, a factual dispute, lack of intent and necessity. Can the prosecution prove that you had the item on your person at the time and furthermore that the item was to be used in the execution of a theft beyond reasonable doubt?

Deciding on whether to plead guilty or not will have major implications for you and should be made after proper discussion with a criminal lawyer. You should ring us and discuss your case if you have been charged.

Questions in cases like this
  • How sophisticated is the proposed theft.
  • Are the items reasonable in the context of the situation that they are discovered. Are they simple a common item, such as a gardener who forgets they have left their gloves in the pack pocket of their pants.
  • What are the potential ramifications of the proposed theft.

Maximum penalty and court that deals with this charge

A person found guilty of Going Equipped for Stealing (s91 of the Crimes Act 1958) can be sentenced to 2 years imprisonment (Level 7 imprisonment).

In 2008, a report was published on the sentencing statistics of this charge in the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria between 2004–05 and 2007–08. The study found that 92.4% of people had their charge heard in the Magistrates’ Court. The remaining cases were heard in the Children’s Court and higher courts. Over the 4-year period, there were 351 people sentenced for this offence. Of those 351 sentences, 215 people received non-custodial sentences, 93 people received an adjourned undertaking, 73 people received a fine and 49 received community based orders. 79 people received immediate custodial sentences and 67 of those were imprisoned.2

[2] Snapshot 60 Sentencing Trends for Going Equipped to Steal in the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria October 2008 < https://www.sentencingcouncil.vic.gov.au/sites/default/files/publication-documents/Snapshot%2060%20Sentencing%20Trends%20for%20Going%20Equipped%20to%20Steal%20in%20the%20Magistrates%20Court%20of%20Victoria%20October%202008.pdf >

Sentencing in the higher courts
In the higher courts, there were 19 charges of Going Equipped for Stealing that were heard from 1 July 2011 to 30 June 2016. Most of these charges resulted in imprisonment (89.5%) while the rest were sentenced to other forms of penalties (10.5%). All prison terms imposed were below 1 year.3

Sentencing in the Magistrates’ Courts
In the Magistrates’ Courts, a total of 2,867 cases (3,608 charges) were heard from 1 July 2013 to 30 June 2016. Majority of these cases also led to imprisonment (45.3%) like in the higher courts. Other penalties imposed were: Community Correction Order (25.4%), fine (10.8%), adjourned undertaking/discharge/dismissal (8.0%), wholly suspended sentence (5.5%), partially suspended sentence (2.8%), other (1.2%), and Youth Justice Centre Order (1.1%).

Of the prison terms imposed, the highest was 36+ months but this was given to only 0.9% of those who were sentenced to prison. The period most often imposed was less than 3 months and was given to 26.5% of those who received a prison sentence.

Of the fines imposed, the highest amount was between $5,000 and $10,000 but this was given to only 0.3% (aggregate) of those who were fined. The majority were in the “$500 < $1,000” category (37.5% for aggregate and 2.0% for non-aggregate).4

Please note that suspended sentences were abolished in Victoria for all offences committed on or after 1 September 2014.5

[3] SACStat Higher Courts – Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) : s 91(1) – go equipped to steal or cheat < https://www.sentencingcouncil.vic.gov.au/sacstat/higher_courts/HC_6231_91_1.html >
[4] SAC Statistics – Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) : s 91(1) – go equipped to steal or cheat < https://www.sentencingcouncil.vic.gov.au/sacstat/magistrates_court/6231_91_1.html >
[5] Suspended Sentence | The Sentencing Advisory Council < https://www.sentencingcouncil.vic.gov.au/about-sentencing/sentencing-options-for-adults/suspended-sentence >