1. For the accused, Stephen Nicholson, to be found guilty of burglary, the following elements needed to be established by the prosecution:
- the accused entered a building (or part of a building) – Nicholson entered the shopping centre through the afterhours access door, entered the premises of a business called ‘Spotlight Photography’
- the accused entered as a trespasser (without the right or the authority to enter the building, or to enter the building at that time) – Nicholson entered the shopping centre as a trespasser (without the right or the authority to enter the building at that time), and entered the photography business as a trespasser (entered by forcing open a door)
- the accused had the intent to steal anything in the building (or part of a building), commit an offence involving an assault to a person in the building (or part of a building) or commit an offence involving any damage to the building or to property in the building (or part of a building) – Nicholson forced open a storage room door and put photographic items into his backpack. He splashed bleach around the storage room and left with the items.
2. The prosecution would be able to establish that Nicholson was a trespasser at South Melbourne Central Shopping Centre as he entered South Melbourne Central Shopping Centre at approximately midnight and did not have the right or the authority to enter the building at that time. He entered the business called ‘Spotlight Photography’ as a trespasser by forcing open a door.
3. Nicholson might have used automatism as a defence to avoid being found guilty of burglary. He might have argued that he acted without conscious thought, that the act was committed as a result of muscle spasms or reflexes, or while not conscious by virtue of a state such as sleepwalking. Alternatively, Nicholson might have used intoxication as a defence. He could have argued that he was so affected by alcohol, a drug or any other substance, that he was unaware of what he was doing, and so could not form the intention to commit a crime. However, he would have needed to prove that his intoxication was not self-induced, otherwise his actions or beliefs would be compared to a reasonable person who is not intoxicated.
4. Responses will vary. Students are likely to conclude that Nicholson should have been found guilty. For example, students might point out that Nicholson was captured entering and leaving the shopping centre on CCTV footage and his face was clearly visible in the footage. When interviewed by the police, he made full admissions regarding the incident. Students are also likely to point out that Nicholson pleaded guilty.
5. Responses will vary. Students might point out, for example, that the victim of the burglary (the business, or the owner/s of the business) suffered a loss of their property and may feel unsafe or violated. It is likely that the victim needed to spend time dealing with police, working with insurance companies and replacing stolen items or repairing the damage caused by Nicholson. The offender, Nicholson, was sentenced to imprisonment – this effects his family as well as his freedom.
6. Responses will vary. Students might point out, for example, that the costs associated with assistance to victims, security and insurance as well as the identification, investigation, prosecution and prevention of burglary have an economic impact. The perception that there is crime in the community can increase, resulting in a feeling across society that individuals and households are not safe. People can become anxious or fearful, particularly if they believe that they could become victims of burglary. The prevalence of crimes such as burglary may encourage others to commit crime.