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- A person is guilty of theft if he dishonestly appropriates property belonging to another with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it- Section 1 of the Theft Act (1968)
- The offence is punishable by a max of 7 years imprisonment
- AR of theft consists the appropriation of, property, belonging to another
- MR consists in doing so dishonesty, with an intention to permanently deprive
- ALL 5 ELEMENTS MUST BE PROVED TO CONVICT OF THEFT
Property – s.4
- The property which may be stolen is defined by s.4 of the 1968 Act
- The broad effect of this section is that all property may be stolen subject to certain exceptions
- Land cannot be stolen- Section 4 (2) Theft Act (1968)
- Picking things growing wild- Not theft- Section 4(3) Theft Act (1968)
- However a person who takes the whole plant may be convicted of theft. Ti falls outside the wording
- Wild creatures cannot be stolen- Section 4(4) Theft Act (1968)
- Confidential Information- Information cannot be stolen
- Oxford v Moss (1979)
- The assumption of any of the rights of an owner amounts to an appropriation
- R v Morris
- The assumption of rights may be done with the consent of the owner. No matter. It is still an appropriation.
- Lawrence v Metropolitan Police Commissioner (2972)
- R v Gomez (1993)
- R v Hinks (2000)
- R v Briggs (2003)
- We know when an appropriation starts. Morris told us so a theft which is complete at a particular moment may nevertheless continue being committed for some time thereafter
- A person may be guilty of theft by aiding and abetting it while it is being committed by another but he cannot aid and abet once the theft is over
- It does not follow that the offence is over in an instant
Belonging to another- s.5
- In the ordinary case property os stolen from one who both owns and posseses it: by one who has no interest in the property at all
- Turner (No.2)n(1971)
- The 1968 Act does not define dishonesty
- Dishonest as an element of the offense
- This lead to problems for the courts interpreting the concept
- Gilks (1972)
- Belief that the person to whom the property belongs cannot be discovered by taking reasonable steps- s.2(1)
- D is not dishonest if he believes whether reasonably or not that the person to whom the property belongs cannot be discovered by taking reasonable steps
- Small (1988)
Belief in the right to deprive – s.2 (1)
- D is not dishonest if he believes whether reasonably or not that he has a legal right to do the act alleged to amount to theft
- It is irrelevant that no such right exists in law- Legal right
- The Act refers specifically to a right in law. A belief in a merely moral right is therefore probably not enough
Belief that the person to whom the property belongs would consent if he knew of the
appropriation and the circumstances of it – s.2 (1)
D is not dishonest if he believe whether reasonably or not that the person to whom the property belongs would consent if he knew of the appropriation and the circumstances of it.
Intention to permanently deprive
- V need not actually be permanently deprived of his property; but the D must intend to permanently deprive V of his property (at time of appropriation
- This means that a mere borrowing of the Vs property is not theft
- Where money or anything which is consumed by use such as petrol is ‘borrowed’, the dishonest ‘borrower’ has an intention to permanently deprive even though he intends to replace the money or the article with another which is just as good
- He intends to deprive the owner of the specific thing he has appropriated
- Velumyl (1989)
Criticisms of Theft
- AR is too widely defined- Even a touching can amount to an appropriation
- Reduces theft to a thought crime
- Unjust that who receives a gift can be convicted for theft conflicts between criminal and civil law
- Almost a complete overlap of obtaining property by deception and theft- Jury has a complete discretion as to which offence to charge- Leads to inconsistencies which can be unfair/unjust
- MR can be hard to prove
- There is an overlap between obtaining goods by deception and theft- perhaps s.15 obtaining should have been charge instead in Lawrence and Gomez because there was an element of deception but s.15 is considered more serious – also offends against the principle of ‘fair labelling’
- An appropriation even includes a taking with the owner’s consent, again very broad
Advantages of Theft
- We know when an appropriation starts- Morris told us so
- The concept of a ‘continuing appropriation has slowed a broad and flexible approach to the AR of theft and has avoided problems with other crimes such as robbery and relieving stolen goods
- The broad concept avoids acquittals on technical grounds and leaves the moral question of guilt of innocence to injury
R v Morris (1983)
- D switched the labels on 2 articles displayed on the shelves of a supermarket with the intention of buying the more expensive article for the price of the less expensive one. The right to label the good is the right of the owner, so the label switching amounted to an appropriation and theft.
- D intended to deceive the cashier and under s.15 of the Theft Act (1968). So far a merely preparatory act not amounting even to an attempt to obtain by deception; but no matter, it is theft contrary to s1.
- Unfair as they haven’t actually stolen anything
- (Lord Roskill- There could only be an appropriation where the owner had not consented to the Ds acts. Contradicted
- Lawrence. Only an obiter remark)
- D, company manager, took money from an office safe without permission. He said that a friend owed him money and that when this money was repaid he would replace the money in the safe.
- CA upheld his theft conviction. He had the intention of permanently depriving that company of the money. His intention was return different money.
Oxford v Moss (1979)
- Student stole the proof of an exam paper he was due to sit the following month. He read the contents of the paper and the returned it. It was agreed that he never intended to permanently deprive the University of the paper itself.
- Under s.4 stealing of information is not theft- If he had taken the paper it would have been theft
CA decided that the law was that the appropriation continues so long as the thief can sensibly be regarded as in the act of stealing
Lawrence v Metropolitan Police Commissioner (1971)
- V was an Italian with little English. He showed the D, taxi driver, a piece of paper in which was written an address and tendered £1. The authorised fare was about 50p but the D indicated that £1 was not enough and took from the Vs still open wallet a £1 and a £5. V permitted the D to do so. The Ds appeal against conviction for theft was dismissed
- Convicted even though he had the consent of the owner
R v Gomez (1993)
- D assistant manager of a shop and persuaded the manager to sell goods to the value of £17,000 to his accomplice, and to accept payment by 2 cheques. The cheques, as Gomez and his accomplice knew, were worthless.
- Charged with theft
- CA followed Morris and quashed their convictions. The contract of sale was voidable for fraud but not but not void. Ownership passed to the accomplice. Permission of owner. CA held no appropriation within s.3 of the 1968 Act.
- HL said there is an appropriation where consent ha been obtained by a false representation. Decision reversed. Convictions upheld.
- Overruled R v Morris
R v Hinks (2000)
- V was a 53 years old man of limited intelligence who had been left money by his father. D befriended the man and encouraged him to give her £60,000. D did not deceive V in any way.
- CA held following Gomez: appropriation covered any assumption by a person of the rights of an owner.
- Consent is irrelevant. Recipient of a valid gift may be found guilty of stealing it- providing only that the jury is satisfied that D had the mens rea for theft at that point.
R v Hale (1978)
- 2 men entered the Vs house. Hale put hand over Vs mouth to stop her from screaming while the other man went upstairs and took jewellery. They then tied her up and threatened that they would harm her child if she phoned the police within 5 minutes of them leaving.
- Hale convicted of robbery and appealed on the basis that any force did not come before or at the time of the theft as required by s.8 of the Theft Act (1968).
- Appeal unsuccessful. CA said that at what point the appropriation is complete is a matter for the jury to decide
- Theft is committed when you pick up the item. Need MR though
- D had left car with P for repair, promising to pay for the repairs when he returned to collect the car the following day. D secretly took back his car. Although D claimed that he was entitled to do as he did, it was clear from the circumstances that he was acting dishonestly. His conviction for stealing the car from P was affirmed by CA
- Can steal own property
- D convicted of the theft of a car he claimed that he believed that it had been abandoned because it had been parked in the same place every day for 2 weeks, during which time it had not moved at all. On inspection, he discovered that the doors were unlocked, and the keys were in the ignition
- CA quashed conviction. There was evidence that D might have believed that the car had been abandoned. The question was whether he had an honest belief that the owner of the car could not reasonably be traced
- Cannot be proved beyond reasonable doubt that he believed it was abandoned. Hard to prove/ disprove.
- D placed a number of bets at a bookmakers. The relief manager mistakenly believed that Gilks had backed the winner and paid him £106. Gilks kept the cash and was charged with theft
- Judge invited jury to try and place themselves in Gilk’s position at the time and answer tha question whether in your view he thought he was acting dishonestly. What’s the meaning of dishonesty (Not defined by theft act)
- However values of the jury and the community are ignored and replaced by values of the D- absence of any objective standard.
- Anybody could say they believe theft it fine- D not dishonest unless he thinks it
- Case of obtaining by deception contrary to s.15 of the 1968 Act. The CA held that the same test of dishonesty is to be applied in both s15 and s1
- 1. Was what was done dishonest according to the ordinary standards of reasonable and honest people? (Objective part of test) If no D not guilty- If yes- guilty
- 2. Did D realise that reasonable and honest people regard what he did as dishonest? (subjective) If yes, he is guilty. If no- Not guilty
- Gets away from Gilks and D no longer to be judged by his own standards
- Makes it easier to convict and acts as a deterrent
- Leads to uncertainty and inconsistency
- Lengthens and complicates trials