Is Theft Of Mail In Australia Illegal?

theft of mail

You would be surprised to learn that theft of mail in Australia is a commonwealth offence and carries severe penalties. Commonwealth offences are considered to be against the government or a government organisation.


Moreover, it is considered mail tampering or mail fraud if you throw someone else’s mail in the rubbish, regardless of the reason. Australia Post, the national postal service, is the only organisation or body that is legally allowed to dispose of mail.

The Law - Theft of mail in Australia

Theft of mail is covered by section 471.1 of the Criminal Code (Cth), which states;


(1) A person is guilty of an offence if:

(a) the person dishonestly appropriates:

(i) a mail-receptacle; or

(ii) an article in the course of post (including an article that appears to have been lost or wrongly delivered by or on behalf of Australia Post or lost in the course of delivery to Australia Post); or

(iii) a postal message; and

(b) the person does so with the intention of 471.1 theft of mail-receptacles, articles or postal messages


The maximum penalty for this offence is imprisonment for 10 years.


There are also several other Commonwealth postal offences that you could be charged with in addition to stealing mail.

Defences available to you

If charged with theft of mail, the defences available to you are;


  • Duress
  • Necessity, and
  • Honest belief in claim of right.

Recent Cases in Australia

In 2019, a Perth woman was sentenced in the District Court of Western Australia to 3 years imprisonment, to be released after serving 16 months upon entering into a Recognisance Order in the amount of $10,000 and to be of good behaviour for 20 months, after pleading guilty to stealing four Australia Post mail bags.


Australia Post estimated that the theft potentially affected approximately 854 different delivery addresses. The post bag also included 33 registered mail items and parcels, which could be tracked by Australia Post as not being delivered.


If you have been charged with theft of mail, contact a criminal defence lawyer and obtain legal advice.


  • Mohammad Khan | Criminal Defence Lawyer

    Mohammad Khan is the Principal Solicitor of Lyons Law Group. After graduating with a Bachelor of Aviation from the University of New South Wales, Mohammad took a keen interest in the law. He began training in criminal law under the tutelage of Australia’s leading criminal lawyer Adam Houda and studied law at the University of Sydney.