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Theft 

Chapter:
Theft
Author(s):

Paul Connor

DOI:
10.1093/law/9780198806387.003.0016
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Subscriber: null; date: 15 August 2018

16.1 Introduction

Brushing up on your knowledge of the offence of theft is a crucial part of your study and revision. The offence can be the subject of questions in its own right, but you must not forget that theft has major links to a number of other offences such as robbery and burglary. Before you study any offence where theft forms part of the definition you must ensure that you have a good understanding of the basic material; this is what this section of the Workbook sets out to achieve.

16.2 Aim

The aim of this section is to provide you with an understanding of the offence of theft.

16.3 Objectives

At the end of this section you should be able to:

  1. 1. Define the offence of theft contrary to s. 1 of the Theft Act 1968.

  2. 2. Identify the different sections of the offence of theft.

  3. 3. Explain what is meant by the term ‘dishonesty’.

  4. 4. Outline the ruling in R v Ghosh [1982] QB 1053.

  5. 5. State the meaning of ss. 3, 4, 5 and 6 of the Theft Act 1968.

  6. 6. Demonstrate your knowledge by completing the exercises in this section.

  7. 7. Apply your knowledge to multiple-choice questions.

16.4 Theft

Theft is probably one of the first criminal law definitions any officer learns ‘off by heart’. You must be able to define the offence before progressing any further.

16.4.1 Exercise—Definition of Theft?

What is the definition of the offence of theft contrary to s. 1 of the Theft Act 1968?

16.4.2 Exercise—Identifying the Sections of the Offence of Theft

Defining the offence of theft should be relatively straightforward. However, it is not uncommon for questions to be posed that ask about the details of the specific sections of the offence. These questions may ask you about a section of the Theft Act 1968 rather than tell you what the section is. As a consequence you need to be able to identify the different sections of the offence.

Answer the following questions and write your answer in the space provided.

What does s. 4 of the Theft Act 1968 relate to?

____________________________________________________________________________________

What does s. 6 of the Theft Act 1968 relate to?

____________________________________________________________________________________

16.5 Dishonesty

16.5.1 Exercise—Dishonesty True or False?

Examine the following comments and decide whether they are ‘true’ or ‘false’.

  1. 1. If a person cannot be shown to have acted ‘dishonestly’, he/she is not guilty of theft.

    • True / False

  2. 2. The decision as to whether or not a defendant was in fact dishonest is one for the jury or magistrates.

    • True / False

  3. 3. There is a statutory definition of ‘dishonesty’.

16.5.2 Exercise—Dishonest or Not? You Decide

In the following examples state whether the defendant is dishonest or not and give a short reason for your answer.

  1. 1. ORPWOOD is owed £100 by his employer. Without the permission of his employer but believing he has a legal right to do so, ORPWOOD takes £100 from his employer’s petty cash box.

    • Is ORPWOOD dishonest?

    • ____________________________________________________________________________________

      Why / Why not?

      ____________________________________________________________________________________

  2. 2. GAFFNEY is a cinema manager who needs £30 to repair his car. He takes £30 as an advance on his salary from the cinema till. He knows that he does not have a legal right to do so, but believes that the cinema owner would consent if he knew about the taking and the circumstances.

    • Is GAFFNEY dishonest?

    • ____________________________________________________________________________________

    • Why / Why not?

    • ____________________________________________________________________________________

  3. 3. ROBERTS finds a football season ticket with HUBER’s details printed in it. ROBERTS keeps and uses the season ticket even though he knows he could easily find HUBER, by taking reasonable steps.

    • Is ROBERTS dishonest?

    • ____________________________________________________________________________________

    • Why / Why not?

    • ____________________________________________________________________________________

  4. 4. BRUNTON finds a football season ticket with TAYLOR’s details printed in it. Although BRUNTON realises that he could easily find TAYLOR and return the ticket to him, he keeps it because he believes that he has a legal right to do so.

    • Is BRUNTON dishonest?

    • ____________________________________________________________________________________

    • Why / Why not?

    • ____________________________________________________________________________________

  5. 5. ALLEN is a shoplifter who is arrested for theft. He has £20 in his pocket and states that he is willing to pay for the goods he has taken.

    • Is ALLEN dishonest?

    • ____________________________________________________________________________________

    • Why / Why not?

    • ____________________________________________________________________________________

16.5.3 R v Ghosh [1982] QB 1053

Sometimes, s. 2 of the Theft Act 1968 will not be applicable and the jury or magistrates will have to take direction from this case.

The jury or magistrates will have to ask:

  1. i. whether, according to the ordinary standards of reasonable and honest people, what was done was ‘dishonest’; and, if it was,

  2. ii. whether ‘the defendant himself must have realised that what was done was dishonest’ by those standards.

As this is an important case, the first part of the direction needs to be remembered. You might want to try and remember it this way.

  • G 

  • H 

  • O

    Ordinary

  • S

    Standards

  • R v

    Reasonable

  • H

    Honest

See Investigators’ Manual, para. 3.1.4

16.6 Appropriation

16.6.1 Exercise—Describe ‘Appropriation’

Using only one sentence, describe what the term ‘appropriation’ means to you.

__________________________________________________________________________________

16.6.2 Exercise—Developing the Term ‘Appropriation’

In each of the following examples, state whether there has been an ‘appropriation’ and give your reason(s) for your decision.

  1. 1. REINER is a tourist who gives his wallet (full of unfamiliar English currency) to a taxi driver to remove the correct fare. The taxi driver helps himself to more than the amount owed.

    • Is this an appropriation by the taxi driver?

    • ____________________________________________________________________________________

    • Does it matter that REINER handed the wallet over with consent? Why / Why not?

    • ____________________________________________________________________________________

  2. 2. VALE swaps a number of price labels on goods displayed for sale in a shop.

    • Is this an appropriation by VALE?

    • ____________________________________________________________________________________

    • Would it matter that VALE has no intention actually to steal the goods? Why / Why not?

    • ____________________________________________________________________________________

  3. 3. HUNT is given an absolute gift of a valuable picture by KELSO, who retains no proprietary interest in the picture.

    • Is this an appropriation by HUNT?

    • ____________________________________________________________________________________

    • Could this become a criminal matter? Why / Why not?

    • ____________________________________________________________________________________

  4. 4. CHAPPLE buys an iPod from HEATH for £100. The iPod is stolen but CHAPPLE does not know this.

    • Is this an appropriation by CHAPPLE?

    • ____________________________________________________________________________________

    • Would CHAPPLE be liable for theft at this stage? Why / Why not?

    • ____________________________________________________________________________________

    • CHAPPLE finds out that the iPod is stolen but refuses to give it back.

    • Would CHAPPLE be liable for theft at this stage? Why / Why not?

    • ____________________________________________________________________________________

16.7 Property

16.7.1 Exercise—Property True/False

Examine the following statements and decide whether they are true or false.

  1. 1. There are no circumstances under which land can be stolen.

    • True / False

  2. 2. The term ‘property’ does not include money.

    • True / False

  3. 3. Intangible property cannot be stolen.

    • True / False

  4. 4. The term ‘property’ includes human bodies.

    • True / False

  5. 5. Electricity is not property for the purposes of the Theft Act 1968.

    • True / False

16.8 Belonging to Another

16.8.1 Exercise—Developing a Scenario

Consider the following scenario and decide who the property is appropriated from, giving your reason(s).

CARROW owns a plant hire business, hiring various tools to customers from a small industrial unit.

  1. 1. LINT enters the unit and takes a chainsaw from a display.

    • Who does LINT appropriate from and why?

    • ____________________________________________________________________________________

  2. 2. CARROW hires a wallpaper stripper to BRENT, who takes it to his home. LINT takes the wallpaper stripper from BRENT.

    • Who does LINT appropriate from and why?

    • ____________________________________________________________________________________

  3. 3. CARROW hires a cement mixer to FAY. FAY takes the cement mixer to PARK’s house. PARK is using the cement mixer and leaves it unattended for several minutes. During this time, LINT takes the cement mixer.

    • Who does LINT appropriate from and why?

    • ____________________________________________________________________________________

  4. 4. CARROW hires a generator to RICE. RICE takes the generator home and leaves it outside his house. CARROW passes RICE’s house and, seeing the generator, he decides to take it to compel RICE to pay for it. RICE tells CARROW the generator has gone and CARROW demands a replacement generator from RICE.

    • Does CARROW appropriate property belonging to another? Why / Why not?

    • ____________________________________________________________________________________

16.9 Intention of Permanently Depriving

16.9.1 Exercise—Meaning of the Words

Write down what the intention to permanently deprive means to you.

____________________________________________________________________________________

16.9.2 Exercise—Permanently Deprive? You Decide

Consider the following scenarios and explain if there is an intention to permanently deprive, giving your reason(s) why / why not.

  1. 1. BLACK takes a valuable painting belonging to DUFF. BLACK asks for £500 to be paid to a charity and then he will return the painting.

    • Is there an intention here? Why / Why not?

    • ____________________________________________________________________________________

  2. 2. COTTON borrows HILL’s rugby season ticket for one game but then retains it, causing HILL to miss the remaining four games of the season.

    • Is there an intention here? Why / Why not?

    • ____________________________________________________________________________________

  3. 3. HURD is unemployed and pawns his mother’s engagement ring for £1,000 in order to obtain money for cigarettes and beer.

    • Is there an intention here? Why / Why not?

    • ____________________________________________________________________________________

16.10 Conclusion

You should now have a good understanding of the offence of theft and its constituent parts. If you do not understand theft then you will find it difficult to understand other offences where theft is a component part, and consequently you may answer a question incorrectly.

16.11 Recall Questions

Try and answer the following questions.

  • What is the full definition of theft (s. 1 of the Theft Act 1968)?

  • What are the three circumstances (under s. 2 of the Act) when a defendant will not be dishonest?

  • What is not property?

  • What does s. 5 of the Act relate to?

  • What is the ruling in R v Ghosh?

  • When can someone steal ‘land or things forming part of the land and severed from it by him/her’?

  • What does the term ‘belonging to another’ mean?

16.12 Multiple-Choice Questions

Answers to these questions can be found in the ‘Answers Section’ at the end of the book. All explanations also include a reference back to the Investigators’ Manual 2018.

1. The Theft Act 1968 sets out a number of circumstances where a person will not be treated as dishonest and one circumstance where a person may be dishonest.

In which of the following circumstances may the person have acted ‘dishonestly’ for the purposes of theft?

  1. A ATKINSON takes £50 from GIBSON’s wallet in the honest belief that he has the right in law to do so in settlement of a debt.

  2. B KEYTE finds a diamond ring worth £1,000 and decides to keep it, as he believes he could never find the owner even though the owner could have been traced by making some simple enquiries.

  3. C HILL urgently needs £100 to pay for repairs to his car and takes this amount from his employer’s petty cash believing that his employer would consent if he knew of the appropriation and its circumstances.

  4. D RAND is selling DVDs at a car boot sale. STOWE offers him £10 for a DVD, which RAND refuses. STOWE throws down a £10 note and takes a DVD.

Answer _____________________________

2. SMITH buys a second-hand car from LAUDER for £25,000. This is a reasonable price for the car at current market values. SMITH is later stopped by the police who discover that the car is stolen and originally belonged to GOODALL. When SMITH is informed, she refuses to hand the car back to GOODALL.

Would SMITH attract liability for theft?

  1. A Yes, SMITH assumes the rights of the owner even though she has come by the property innocently.

  2. B No, SMITH has purchased the car in good faith and for a reasonable price.

  3. C Yes, when SMITH is informed of the circumstances and does not return the car she commits theft.

  4. D No, SMITH was not the original thief and the same property cannot be appropriated on more than one occasion.

Answer _____________________________

3. DELACY is a solicitor dealing primarily with mortgages. He is provided with £180,000 by BOOTH to buy a house. DELACY’s business is in financial difficulties and so DELACY transfers BOOTH’s mortgage money to his company account rather than holding the funds for the mortgage. DELACY knows that his actions are, at least, unethical.

Taking account of s. 5 of the Theft Act 1968, which of the following statements is correct?

  1. A DELACY is under a legal obligation to deal with the money in a particular way. He has breached this obligation and has therefore committed theft.

  2. B Ownership of the money has been transferred to DELACY’s firm. Therefore, if DELACY has possession/control of the money, he cannot commit theft.

  3. C When BOOTH transfers the money to DELACY, he revokes any proprietary interest in the money. This would be a contractual issue between BOOTH and DELACY.

  4. D The property belongs to both parties. BOOTH would have to prove that DELACY did not intend to repay the money to prove theft.

Answer _____________________________