Obtaining Property By Deception – Commonwealth

Obtaining Property By Deception – Commonwealth

In Victoria, Obtaining Property By Deception (Commonwealth) is found in section 134.1 of the Commonwealth Criminal Code 1995. It is a criminal offence that is committed by a person who was found to have used dishonest means in order to acquire a Commonwealth property.

Have you been accused of Obtaining Property By Deception (Commonwealth)? If you have, it is worth speaking with one of our experienced criminal defence lawyers who can answer your important questions. It is best to do this before you speak with the Police to avoid telling them anything which may harm your defence later on.
 
Police Interview
Do you believe that you are under investigation by police? Have police been trying to contact you by telephone, or by leaving their contact card at your home address or place of employment? If so, do not wait until police catch up with you before you speak to a criminal lawyer.

If you are aware that you are under investigation in relation to a charge of Obtaining Property by Deception (Commonwealth), our criminal lawyers will contact police on your behalf to seek as much information about the matter as possible. We can provide you with clear and comprehensive advice about your options in a police interview, and the best way to proceed in your particular circumstances.

Police officers are trained to investigators and ask questions in a way to make you look like you’re not telling the truth. There is no such thing as an “off the record conversation”, the police will use anything you tell them which they think is helpful.

If it is your preference, our lawyers can also attend the police interview with you.

Pleading Not Guilty
If you are contesting a charge of Obtaining Property by Deception (Commonwealth), you should engage an experienced criminal lawyer at an early stage of proceedings. Our expert lawyers will thoroughly analyse the brief of evidence in order to identify the weaknesses in the prosecution case, and explain the legal defences to that are open to you. The difference our firm offers our clients is that we have in-house barristers who run our trials. They can get involved from the very beginning to work on a defence strategy for you.

If you are pleading not guilty, our criminal lawyers will ensure that you are provided with the best possible legal representation and defence to the charge before the Court.

Pleading Guilty
If you are pleading guilty to a charge of Obtaining Property by Deception (Commonwealth) our experienced criminal lawyers will clearly explain the circumstances of the offending to the Court on your behalf; why you did it, what you have done since, and why it will not happen again.

Our lawyer’s submissions to the Court on your behalf will be supported by documents such as character references and medical or psychological material about you. In this way, our lawyers will ensure that your unique story is explained to the Magistrate, and that you leave Court having had a fair hearing and with the best possible outcome in the circumstances.
What is the legal definition of Obtaining Property By Deception – Commonwealth?
A person uses deception to dishonestly obtain property belonging to the Commonwealth the intention of permanently depriving the Commonwealth of the property. Absolute liability applies to this offence. This means that you can be charged without having knowledge that the property belonged to the commonwealth.

There are a number of factors that can affect this charge. The act qualifies and explains the different ways that a person can take ownership of property. This includes enabling or inducing ownership of a third party.

The act explains the ways by which a person can permanently deprive someone of property. Borrowing and lending are included in this. The act also describes the various ways a person can be in possession of property.

A person can be charged for this if they took ownership or enabled ownership for themselves or a third party through inducement.

Examples of Obtaining Property by Deception – Commonwealth
  • A person works for a government agency such as Australia Post and authorises payment of false invoices of which they receive a portion of the payment.
  • A person who works in setting up state funded schools and is discovered to be inflating student register numbers with non-existent classes to increase funding.
  • A person in the medical industry is takes advantage of benefits provided to them from the Health Insurance Commission by claiming services that were not performed.
Legislation
The legislation for this offence can be found on section 134.1 of Criminal Code Act 1995.

Elements of the offence
In simple terms, you have taken property that belongs to the commonwealth. You have done this with an act of deception.

In basic terms, the deception must be against a Federal Government Body for you to be found guilty of this offence.

The definition of “permanent deprivation” is contained within section 134.1 which includes:

  1. if a person obtains property belonging to another without meaning the other permanently to lose the thing itself; and
  2. if the person’s intention is to treat the thing as the person’s own to dispose of regardless of the other’s rights;
So, it is acting in a way inconsistent with another person’s ownership that may establish the intention to permanently deprive.
 
Defences to these sorts of charges often involve factual disputes about what actually happened and also issues of intention. Honest and reasonable mistake of belief and the concept of beyond reasonable doubt may also be used.

Questions in cases like this
  • Did the property belong to the Commonwealth?
  • Was it dishonest?

The maximum penalty for Obtaining Property By Deception – Commonwealth (s134.1 of the Commonwealth Criminal Code 1995) is imprisonment for 10 years.

Sentencing in the higher courts
There had been 46 charges of Obtaining Property By Deception – Commonwealth that were heard in the higher courts of Victoria from 1 July 2011 to 30 June 2016. Most of these charges resulted in imprisonment (89.1%). The remaining charges resulted in suspended sentences: partially suspended sentence (8.7%) and wholly suspended sentence (2.2%).

Of those who were sentenced to prison, 48.8% were sentenced to a term between 1 and 2 years while 43.9% somewhere between 2 and 3 years. The remaining 2.4% were given the highest prison terms which are between 3 and 4 years.1

Please note that suspended sentences were abolished in the higher courts earlier than that of the Magistrates’ Court, and therefore all offences committed on or after 1 September 2013 will not have this available as a sentencing option.2


[1] SACStat Higher Courts – Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth) : s 134.1(1) – obtaining property by deception – Commonwealth entity < https://www.sentencingcouncil.vic.gov.au/sacstat/higher_courts/HC_CRIMCODE_134_1_1.html >
[2] Suspended Sentence | The Sentencing Advisory Council < https://www.sentencingcouncil.vic.gov.au/about-sentencing/sentencing-options-for-adults/suspended-sentence >