Stealing Motor Vehicles or Vessels in NSW

Stealing Motor Vehicles or Vessels in NSW: An Overview of Offences, Legal Processes, and Potential Defences

In New South Wales (NSW), motor vehicle and vessel theft is a grave concern, posing challenges to law enforcement and causing significant loss to individuals and businesses alike. Understanding the nuances of this crime – from its legal parameters to consequences, prosecution processes, and possible defences – is crucial for anyone who may find themselves on either side of the equation. This article provides an in-depth insight into the matter.

Defining the Offence

Under the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW), “stealing” is defined as the dishonest appropriation of property belonging to another to deprive the other of it permanently. In the context of motor vehicles or vessels, it refers to unlawfully taking or using cars, boats, motorcycles, and similar modes of transport without the owner’s consent.

Penalties for Stealing Motor Vehicles or Vessels

According to Section 154F of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW), anyone found guilty of this offence can face imprisonment for up to 10 years. If the crime is committed during a public disorder, the penalty can increase to 12 years imprisonment.


a. 2018, Sydney: A duo was apprehended for a series of vehicle thefts from car rental agencies. They rented and sold these vehicles using fake identification and payment details. Their spree ended with a combined jail term of 15 years.

b. 2019, Central Coast: A man faced multiple charges after stealing luxury boats from several harbours and selling them at slashed prices. The estimated combined value of the stolen vessels exceeded $1 million.

Prosecution Steps

The prosecution typically follows these general steps:

  1. Investigation: Gathering evidence, including CCTV footage, witness testimonies, GPS tracking, etc.
  2. Charge: If enough evidence is collected, the suspect is charged.
  3. Court Mention: The initial court appearance. The accused can plead guilty or not guilty.
  4. Evidence Exchange: The prosecution and defence exchange evidence before the trial or hearing.
  5. Hearing/Trial: If the accused pleads not guilty, a hearing or trial will occur where both sides present their case.
  6. Verdict: The court decides based on the evidence presented.

Possible Defences

The defence for the accused can employ various strategies:

  1. Lack of Intent: Arguing that the accused did not intend to deprive the owner of the vehicle or vessel permanently.
  2. Consent: Asserting that the accused had the owner’s permission to use the vehicle or vessel.
  3. Mistaken Identity: Claiming that the accused was not the individual who committed the offence.
  4. Duress: Arguing that the accused was forced into committing the crime due to threats or intimidation.
  5. Insufficient Evidence: Contending that the prosecution’s evidence is not strong enough to support a conviction.


Stealing motor vehicles or vessels is a serious crime in NSW, carrying heavy penalties. Individuals need to be aware of the law, the prosecution processes, and potential defences, whether they’re seeking justice for theft or are facing accusations. Legal representation is invaluable in navigating such situations, ensuring that justice is served appropriately.