Stealing of cattle in Australia, also known as cattle rustling, is the illegal act of taking livestock belonging to another person. It is a serious crime with significant consequences for both the perpetrator and the victim. Here are some key points about stealing cattle in Australia:
Nature of the Crime:
- Stealing cattle is considered a serious crime punishable by imprisonment and fines.
- The definition of “cattle” includes cows, heifers, bulls, and other stock animals like horses, sheep, and pigs.
- The crime can be motivated by various reasons, including financial gain, personal vendetta, or simply opportunity.
Scale of the Problem:
- Cattle theft is a significant problem in Australia, causing financial losses to farmers and impacting the overall rural economy.
- The true extent of the problem is believed to be significantly higher than reported numbers, as many cases go unreported due to reasons like lack of evidence or fear of retaliation.
- Large-scale and organised theft of cattle involving sophisticated techniques is becoming increasingly common.
Read on to learn more about stealing of cattle laws in Australia.
Section 126: Stealing Cattle or Killing With Intent to Steal
Section 126 of stealing of cattle or killing with intent to steal outlines the following provisions:
1. Stealing Cattle:
This includes taking any live animal belonging to another person without their consent. Examples include cows, bulls, heifers, sheep, horses, and pigs.
2. Killing Cattle with Intent to Steal:
This pertains to intentionally taking the life of an animal with the specific purpose of stealing its carcass, skin, or any other part.
Both offences mentioned above carry a significant penalty of up to 14 years imprisonment.
Section 127: Stealing or Killing Cattle – Uncertainty as to Sex or Age Not to Entitle to Acquittal
Section 127 of stealing of cattle addresses a specific legal aspect related to offences under Section 126.
- If someone is accused of stealing or killing an animal covered by Section 126 (likely cattle, sheep, horses, or pigs), they cannot be acquitted solely because the exact sex or age of the animal is uncertain.
- The uncertainty in sex or age does not negate the possibility of the crime, and the defendant can still be found guilty based on other evidence presented in court.
- This provision aims to ensure that individuals attempting to exploit minor uncertainties to escape conviction are held accountable.
Section 128: Trial for Stealing Cattle – Verdict of Stealing Skins
Section 128 of stealing of cattle addresses situations where a defendant charged with stealing cattle cannot be conclusively proven guilty of the entire offence. It provides an alternative option for the jury, allowing for a more nuanced verdict.
- If a jury is unsure whether the defendant stole the entire animal (cattle), they can still find the defendant guilty of stealing a part of the animal, such as the carcass, skin, or any other portion.
- Similarly, suppose the jury is unsure about the intent to steal the entire animal. In that case, they can still find the defendant guilty of killing the animal within the scope of Section 126, which prohibits killing cattle with intent to steal a part.
- This provision allows for flexibility in reaching a verdict based on the available evidence, even if the specific details of the crime remain partially unclear.
- The defendant, if found guilty of the alternative offence under Section 128, will still be subject to appropriate punishment.
Section 129: Trial for Killing Cattle – Verdict of Stealing
Section 129 of stealing of cattle offers flexibility in reaching a fair verdict for cases involving the illegal killing of livestock. It allows the jury to consider alternative charges based on the available evidence, ensuring accountability even if certain aspects of the crime remain unclear.
- If a jury is unsure whether the defendant killed an animal (likely cattle) with intent to steal a part of it, they can still find the defendant guilty of stealing the entire animal.
- This provision recognises that killing an animal with the intent to steal any part constitutes the broader offence of stealing the entire animal.
- This flexibility allows the jury to reach a just verdict based on the evidence, even if the specific intent to steal a specific part remains uncertain.
- As with Section 128, the defendant will be subject to appropriate punishment for the alternative offence of stealing the entire animal.
Section 130: Trial for Stealing Cattle – Verdict of Misdemeanour
Section 130 of stealing of cattle further expands the options available to juries in livestock theft cases. This section allows for an alternative verdict of “misdemeanour” when the evidence doesn’t fully support the main charge of stealing cattle.
1. If a jury is unsure whether the defendant stole cattle but believes they committed an act related to livestock theft described in Section 131, they can find the defendant guilty of that misdemeanour instead.
2. Section 131 covers various offences related to livestock, including:
- Unlawfully taking or driving away cattle
- Branding or marking cattle without authorisation
- Moving cattle without a license
- Failing to properly care for impounded cattle
3. This provision ensures that individuals who engage in illegal activities related to livestock are accountable even if we cannot conclusively prove the specific intent to steal the entire animal.
4. The defendant, if found guilty of the misdemeanour under Section 131, will be subject to the corresponding penalties outlined in that section.
Section 131: Unlawfully Using Etc Another Person’s Cattle
Section 131 of stealing of cattle focuses on protecting livestock ownership by addressing various illegal activities beyond outright theft. It outlines three specific offences punishable by imprisonment for up to three years:
1. Unlawful Use:
- This section prohibits taking and working on another person’s livestock without their consent. This includes using the animal for labour, transportation, or any other purpose without the owner’s authorisation.
- This provision protects farmers from having their animals exploited for personal gain without their knowledge or permission.
2. Taking for Secreting or Fraudulent Purposes:
- This section prohibits taking another person’s livestock with the intent to hide it, demand a reward for its return, or use it for any other fraudulent scheme.
- This protects farmers from potential scams and ensures they receive compensation for the loss of their animals.
3. Fraudulent Branding or Altering of Marks:
- This section prohibits branding, marking, or altering the existing markings of another person’s livestock without their consent.
- This protects the integrity of animal identification, preventing fraud and ensuring proper tracking of ownership.
The Importance of Seeking Legal Advice
JB Solicitors possesses extensive experience in handling livestock theft cases and can provide you with the necessary guidance and support throughout the process. Their team of dedicated criminal lawyers will work tirelessly to protect your rights and ensure you receive full compensation for your loss.
Don’t hesitate to contact JB Solicitors today to discuss the stealing of cattle cases.