Last week, shocking footage was all over the internet of a woman attempting to steal an entire trolley full of groceries from Woolworths in Baulkham Hills. The footage shows an employee of Woolworths chase the woman and try to take the trolley from her. There was a long struggle between the women for control over the trolley, with the thief not giving up, allegedly causing an assault to the employee. Eventually, the thief gave up and ran off, not before grabbing some items from the trolley. She was then caught by an off-duty police officer as she tried to leave the carpark. A witness has stated that a Woolworths employee was pushed onto the ground before the thief tried to run off with the trolley. The 26-year-old woman was arrested and charged with assault and shoplifting and is set to face Parramatta Local Court on July 24.


Section 61 of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) – Common Assault Prosecuted by Indictment

The section states “whosoever assaults any person, although not occasioning actual bodily harm, shall be liable to imprisonment for two years.”

Common assault is any act (but not a failure to act) where a person intentionally or recklessly causes another person to apprehend immediate and unlawful violence.

An assault charge can still be laid even though violence did not occur. It can also include an actual fear of that violence which is the crux of the offence of assault.

Some examples of assault include striking at a person with a fist or slapping a person; throwing an object at another person (even if it misses); and unlawful imprisonment of another person.

Assaults are divided into different categories – ‘common’ and ‘aggravated’.

An offence of common assault is characterised as a ‘table 1’ offence under the Criminal Procedure Act 1986 (NSW). This means it is to be dealt with in the Local Court unless an election is made by the Department of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to have the matter be dealt with on indictment. If a matter is dealt with on indictment this means it is heard in the District Court, where accused persons may be face higher penalties.

An assault is a common assault when it results in no injury, or in injuries that are not serious or require very little medical treatment.

Common assault can also include threats of violence, if the person making the threat could carry them out.

To establish common assault the prosecution must prove each of the following matters beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • The accused assaulted the victim; and
  • Intentionally or recklessly caused another person to apprehend immediate and unlawful violence.

There is no specific offence of “aggravated assault” in NSW. However, there are different offences involving assault that can be aggravated by various factors. Some such offences are: assault occasioning actual bodily harm, reckless wounding, recklessly inflict grievous bodily harm and assault police. To read up on other violence offences against the person take a look at our page here.

To learn more about common assault, read our dedicated page.

Section 117 of the Act – Punishment For Larceny

The provision states the following: whosoever commits larceny, or any indictable offence by this Act made punishable like larceny, shall, except in the cases hereinafter otherwise provided for, be liable to imprisonment for five years.

Larceny is the theft of personal property, without their consent and with the intention of permanently depriving them of that item(s).

The crime cannot be made out until the offender has taken away the item from the owner.

Some examples of larceny include:

  • Stealing a motor vehicle;
  • Taking money to restore debts;
  • Stealing, destroying any records of the Court or public office;
  • Stealing goods in the process of manufacture;
  • Embezzlement; and
  • Stealing from a ship in distress or wreck.

Larceny is also a ‘table 1’ offence.

To establish larceny, the prosecution must to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:

  • The accused took the property;
  • That belonged to someone else;
  • They did so without the owner’s consent; and
  • With the intention of permanently depriving the owner of it.

To read more about larceny and the possible penalties involved, look at our dedicated page here.


Some defences that are available for both larceny and common assault include duress and necessity.

Duress is when a person is compelled to act in a certain way due to the circumstances, or the threats of another; and

Necessity provides when an action is required to prevent a greater harm from occurring.

The eyewitness in this scenario stated that the offender was “very aggressive” and “full of strength”. This could be an indication of the effects of an illicit substance. Even if that were the case, however, intoxication is not a defence.


Alternatively, the offender could make a section 32 application to the Court to be dealt with under the Mental Health (Forensic Provisions) Act 1990 (NSW) instead of facing a criminal charge. She would have to prove that she is or was at the time of the offending, suffering from a mental illness, a mental condition, or is developmentally disabled, amongst other things. The Court may find it is more appropriate to deal with her under the Mental Health provisions, balancing the public interest of course, and the seriousness of the offending. If she were to be dealt with in this way, she would have to stick to a mental health plan or face Court again.

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