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Le v. Feakes - (06 Nov 2018)

A reasonable suspicion that a thing has been stolen or unlawfully obtained will necessarily fall short of certainty


In facts of present case, the Appellant was convicted after trial in the Magistrates Court of a charge of being in possession of a thing capable of being stolen, namely $10,400 in cash, that was reasonably suspected to be unlawfully obtained, contrary to Section 417(1) of the Criminal Code (WA). The Appellant challenged the judgment on ground that, His Honour erred in concluding the money was reasonably suspected of being stolen against the weight of the evidence.

In order to establish an offence under Section 417, the prosecution is required to prove the following elements beyond reasonable doubt: 1. That the Accused was in possession of a thing. 2. That the thing was capable of being stolen. 3. That the thing was reasonably suspected to be stolen or otherwise unlawfully obtained. A reasonable suspicion that a thing has been stolen or unlawfully obtained will necessarily fall short of certainty. The section does not require any certainty greater than suspicion to be established.

It was plainly open for the magistrate to come to a conclusion that the charge had been proven beyond reasonable doubt. A large quantity of cash was found at the Appellant’s house inside a beef jerky bag. The cash consisted entirely of $100 and $50 notes. At the time the cash was found the Appellant was also in possession of other illegal items, including drugs and ammunition. Further, he was also found in possession of a large number of blotter tabs of Xanax which had been illegally imported and for which he did not have a prescription. The Appellant had previously deposited another large sum of cash in similar circumstances. There were a number of features of the Appellant’s evidence that made his explanation inherently incredible.

The magistrate's decision to convict the Appellant was not unreasonable. It cannot be reasonably said that, the magistrate must necessarily have entertained a reasonable doubt about whether the prosecution had proved each of the elements of the offence. Having made an independent assessment of the sufficiency and quality of the evidence, Supreme Court is satisfied that, it was open to the magistrate to be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt as to the guilt of the Appellant.


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