Stealing by Clerks and Servants in NSW

Stealing by Clerks and Servants in NSW: An In-depth Look into the Offence, Consequences, and Case Studies

Employers’ trust in their employees is foundational for the functioning of businesses and services. In New South Wales (NSW), the law has particular provisions for breaches of this trust, especially concerning theft. One such provision targets ‘stealing by clerks and servants’ – a specific type of offence that has seen numerous high-profile cases over the years. This article delves into the nature of this crime, the penalties involved, and notable prosecutions.

What is “Stealing by Clerks and Servants?

As per the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW), “stealing by clerks and servants” refers to instances where employees misappropriate money or property belonging to their employers. The crime hinges on the breach of trust, with the employee taking advantage of their position for personal gain.

Examples could range from a cashier pocketing some of the day’s earnings to a financial officer diverting company funds to a personal account.

The Law and Penalties

Section 156 of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) provides that any clerk or servant convicted of stealing any chattel, money, or valuable security belonging to or in the possession or power of his/her master or employer can face imprisonment for up to 10 years.

The severity of the punishment generally corresponds to:

  • The amount misappropriated or the value of the stolen property.
  • The duration and nature of the deception.
  • The offender’s job responsibilities and the degree of trust placed in them.
  • Previous criminal records or prior instances of similar misconduct.

Examples and Prosecutions

a. 2017, Sydney: A former financial controller of a renowned construction company was found guilty of embezzling over $1.2 million over five years. By creating false invoices and manipulating financial records, the employee-funded luxury trips and an extravagant lifestyle. He was sentenced to seven years imprisonment.

b. 2019, Wollongong: A secretary employed at a local non-profit diverted charity funds over two years, totalling over $100,000. Her actions, discovered during a routine audit, led to a sentence of five years imprisonment.

c. 2020, Newcastle: In a highly publicised case, a bank clerk misappropriated funds by creating fake customer accounts and transferring sums of money. Over three years, she siphoned off more than $500,000. Her crimes led to an eight-year sentence, with a non-parole period of five years.


Stealing by clerks and servants” represents a significant betrayal of trust, and the law in NSW reflects the seriousness of this offence. While these examples underscore the potential consequences, it’s important to remember that each case is unique. If accused of such a crime, it’s crucial to seek legal advice immediately, given the complexities involved and the stringent penalties that can be imposed.