Today’s correspondent tells me that:
Many years ago I brought the old Khaki NT Police shirt (in a much smaller females size so no chance of me ever being able to wear it, no any desire to do so).
I brought it as I thought it was a cool piece of NT history, with the intention to get it framed and hang it on my wall and didn’t think anything of it legally speaking, until I got home and realised it might be illegal to even possess it.
The item is still in its original packaging, I think it does have the NT Police patch on it. Currently I’ve got it kept in a box almost hidden away for fear of it being illegal.
I tried asking for advice anomalously on reddit, and have been given very conflicting answers. Some stating its 10 years jail for possessing it. I understand wearing it is very illegal, it’d the reason when I got it I made sure it was way too small to fit me in any shape or form (6ft male who is slightly overweight, even if I lost all the weight there is no way I’d fit a females medium, which I believe is its size, potentially a small).
Is it legal to own and put this shirt in a frame to display in my room? Or should I go with my gut and cut the thing to shreds then burn it to avoid going to jail over a shirt? I believe I got it around 2013 or 2014, after the NT Police moved to the state wide blue uniforms.
I currently live in Queensland if that plays any role, also thank you for your time. A fellow redditor was the one that linked to your site.
The Police Administration Act 1978 (NT) s 149(1) says:
A person who ceases to be a member of the Police Force shall not refuse to deliver up to the Commissioner, or to such person, and at such time and place, as the Commissioner directs, all property which has been supplied to him for the execution of his duty, or which is in his custody by virtue of his having been a member.
Maximum penalty: 8 penalty units or imprisonment for 3 months or both.
A penalty unit is currently $162 so 8 penalty units is $1296.
That section only applies to a former member of the police force. I assume that my correspondent is not a former NT police officer, and even if he was, he was not ‘supplied’ the shirt in that context so that section cannot apply.
Section 156 says
Any person shall not without lawful excuse, personate a member of the Police Force.
Maximum penalty: 4 penalty units [$648] or imprisonment for 3 months or both.
Owning the shirt whether it’s in a box or a frame is not ‘personating’ a police officer that is my correspondent is not using the shirt to pretend that he is an NT police officer, so that section cannot apply.
The Summary Offences Act 1923 (NT) s 61 says:
(2) A person who:
(a) has in [their] … custody any personal property;…
(c) has in or on any premises any personal property; …
… which … is reasonably suspected of having been stolen or otherwise unlawfully obtained, is guilty of an offence.
Penalty: $2,000 or imprisonment for 12 months.
Here the test is not actually whether the goods are stolen but whether it is reasonable to suspect that they have been stolen – putting an onus on the defendant to prove that they are not stolen. The NT Law Handbook says:
To establish their innocence, a person charged under section 61 must provide the court with a satisfactory explanation as to how they came into possession of the suspected property see Mununggurritj v Rue  NTSC 2 at  and also Eupene v Hales  NTCA 9.
A similar offence exists in Queensland – ‘A person must not unlawfully possess a thing that is reasonably suspected of having been stolen or unlawfully obtained’. Maximum penalty is 20 penalty units (that is 20 x $143.75 = $2875) or 1 year’s imprisonment (Summary Offences Act 2005 (Qld) s 16).
This seems the most likely offence. One might infer that the shirt was issued to a police officer who failed to return it as they were required to do. They have then appropriated it, ie treated it as if they were the owner, if they then sold it. As a collector it is clearly a shirt that belongs to the Northern Territory so one could reasonably suspect that it has been ‘stolen or otherwise unlawfully obtained’.
This is not a place for legal advice so I cannot advise anyone of what to do. Nor can I comment on the likely attitude of NT police given that it’s no longer the current uniform and uniforms are collected and traded around the world. Having said that, prima facie it could be an offence against the Summary Offences Act to retain possession of it.
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‘This seems the most likely offence. One might infer that the shirt was issued to a police officer who failed to return it as they were required to do. They have then appropriated it, ie treated it as if they were the owner, if they then sold it. As a collector it is clearly a shirt that belongs to the Northern Territory so one could reasonably suspect that it has been ‘stolen or otherwise unlawfully obtained.’
Police are only required to return used uniform if directed to do so and it is highly unlikely that retired police would be asked to return an old, obsolete shirt, so to infer that the uniform was stolen based on such assumption is wrong. I have an old police baton from my time in law enforcement 40 years ago and I was never asked to return that item, which was obsolete at the time I ceased service.
Pete, I agree but this is not a legal advice web site so all I can do is think of offences it may be – particularly as my correspondent said he’d been told it may be an offence carrying 10 years imprisonment and I cannot see that. My conclusion is that if it’s any offence this would be the most likely. But we know that there is trade in police memorabilia and of course people keep uniforms for that reason. So I wouldn’t go so far as to ‘infer that the uniform was stolen’ but to say if there is an offence that is the only one I could reasonably identify. I don’t really think this person’s going to be in trouble for keeping an old shirt but I cannot give that advice – the question was ‘is it illegal?’ My answer was ‘of all the offences I can identify it may be that one’ to go further would require details of how it was acquired, in what circumstances etc. I cannot say whether, in all the circumstances, anyone would reasonably suspect the item was stolen.