Car theft turns ugly


A man is being interviewed by Victoria Police after a would-be thief made off with his car in the early hours of this morning. The car owner was woken by the thief’s efforts and gave chase in another vehicle. The thief stopped the car and got out before being struck by the owner’s car. They then engaged in a fight. The thief was admitted to hospital with serious injuries. Both men are being interviewed by police.


What are they up for?

With regard to the thief, it is a simple case of larceny. In NSW, he would be charged under s 117 of the Crimes Act. If the value of the goods exceeded $5,000, he could have his matter dealt with in the District Court by jury trial, where the maximum penalty is 5 years’ jail. If it stayed in the Local Court, the maximum is 2 years’ jail. Even though the thief did not keep the car, larceny is still proven where the intention to permanently deprive coincides with the act of taking. It is no defence that the thief intended to return the car to the owner at a later date (s 118).

In terms of the car owner, he could be up for assault-related charges, and/or dangerous driving.

Dangerous driving is proved where a person drives a vehicle and impacts upon another person, causing them grievous bodily harm, and the person was driving dangerously or at a dangerous speed. The maximum penalty is 7 years (s 52A(3)). This offence can only be proved where the victim’s injuries are grievous bodily harm, or “really serious injury”. Given that the thief’s injuries are described as “serious”, it is difficult to gauge their severity in factual terms.

Plain assault occasioning actual bodily harm (s 59) can also probably be made out on these facts. This can be prosecuted in the District Court (5 years max) or the Local Court (2 years max).

The owner, if charged, might consider a defence of self-defence. This is available where the actions were done if the person believed it was necessary to protect property from unlawful taking, destruction, damage or interference (s 418). (Self-defence in regard to property is not available where the person who seeks to rely on it has occasioned the death of the victim.) This defence would have limited prospects of success, as the necessity of injuring someone, conceivably to the point of death, in order to protect personal property, would likely be seen as disproportionate by a judge or jury.

What’s the outcome?

On the facts provided, it is most likely that the would-be thief would be found guilty of larceny, and the car owner would be found guilty of an offence such as assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

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Image credit: ABC News Timothy Marshall

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