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Handling Stolen Goods 

Handling Stolen Goods
Handling Stolen Goods

Paul Connor

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Subscriber: null; date: 15 August 2018

19.1 Introduction

It has been said that without receivers, there would be no thieves (R v Battams (1979) 1 Cr App R 15). The symbiotic relationship between handler and thief is one reason why the offence of handling stolen goods is deemed to be a more serious offence than theft, with the maximum sentence for handling being set at 14 years as opposed to seven years for theft.

19.2 Aim

The aim of this section is to assist in your understanding of the law surrounding the offence of handling stolen goods.

19.3 Objectives

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

  1. 1. Outline the offence of handling stolen goods contrary to s. 22 of the Theft Act 1968.

  2. 2. Explain the term ‘stolen goods’ for the purposes of the offence of handling stolen goods.

  3. 3. Identify when guilty knowledge in cases of handling can be used in a trial under s. 27 of the Theft Act 1968.

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

19.4 Handling Stolen Goods

19.4.1 Exercise—Handling Stolen Goods Scenarios

Examine the following scenario and then answer the associated questions. Give a short reason for your answer where you are asked.

  1. 1. FARRIN is a well-known handler of stolen goods. She receives a visit from one of her criminal associates, ISAACS, who has been a fruitful source of stolen goods in the past. ISAACS and FARRIN discuss the theft of a lorryload of cigarettes that ISAACS and his gang are going to steal that evening. After considerable haggling between the two, FARRIN agrees to pay ISAACS £5,000 when he delivers the cigarettes later on.

    • Does FARRIN commit the offence of handling stolen goods?

    • Yes / No

    • Why / Why not?

    • ____________________________________________________________________________________

  2. 2. MILLER owes PUGH £2,000 and has refused to pay the debt. PUGH is an accomplished burglar and breaks into an office owned by MILLER and takes a computer worth about £1,000 in settlement of the debt, because he believes he has a right in law to do so. PUGH takes the computer to his handler, SHARROD, and asks him if he wants to buy it. As it is PUGH who is offering the computer to him, SHARROD automatically presumes that it has been stolen during a burglary. SHARROD offers PUGH £100 and PUGH accepts the offer.

    • Does SHARROD commit the offence of handling stolen goods?

    • Yes / No

    • Why / Why not?

    • ____________________________________________________________________________________

  3. 3. Before you read the explanation of the previous two scenarios, what can you remember about the offence of handling stolen goods?

    • ____________________________________________________________________________________

19.4.2 Exercise—Handling True or False?

Answer the following true or false questions.

  1. 1. A person can only be guilty of handling stolen goods where they know or believe the goods are stolen at the time they do the act that constitutes handling.

    • True / False

  2. 2. To be guilty of an offence of handling stolen goods the defendant must suspect that the goods are stolen.

    • True / False

  3. 3. If you cannot prove that the defendant knew the goods were stolen, then it will be sufficient to prove that any reasonable person would have realised the goods were stolen.

  4. 4. The mens rea required to prove handling is that the defendant knew or believed goods to be stolen.

    • True / False

19.5 Stolen Goods

Section 24 of the Theft Act 1968 defines the term ‘stolen goods’ for the purpose of this offence. You have already seen the importance of ensuring that the goods are actually stolen, but now you must decide whether they fall within the terms of this part of the definition.

19.5.1 Exercise—Stolen Goods or Not?

Examine the following scenarios and decide whether the goods mentioned would be classed as stolen for the purposes of s. 24 of the Act.

  1. 1. WHITE steals a diamond necklace from a jeweller’s shop in Australia. The owner of the shop reports the theft to the Australian police, but WHITE manages to avoid capture for the offence and returns to his home in England. On his return to England, he takes the necklace to YEO and asks him if he wishes to buy it. YEO asks where the necklace came from and WHITE tells him how he obtained it.

    • Would the necklace be ‘stolen goods’?

    • Yes / No

    • What is the key to deciding whether or not goods stolen in a place other than England and Wales are ‘stolen goods’ for the purposes of s. 24?

    • ____________________________________________________________________________________

  2. 2. LAPPER steals a laptop computer from JERRAM. LAPPER sells the laptop to his handler, GAGE, who knows that the laptop is stolen. GAGE sells the laptop to DOBSON, who has no idea that the laptop is stolen and pays GAGE a fair market price for the laptop.

    • Would the laptop be ‘stolen goods’ in the hands of LAPPER?

    • Yes / No

    • Would the laptop be ‘stolen goods’ in the hands of GAGE?

    • Yes / No

    • Would the laptop be ‘stolen goods’ in the hands of DOBSON?

    • Yes / No

    • Explain your reasoning for each of the previous decisions.

    • ____________________________________________________________________________________

    There are two occasions when ‘stolen goods’ will cease to be ‘stolen’. What are they?

    1. i. _________________________________________________________________________________

    2. ii. _________________________________________________________________________________


  3. 3. TI O’BYRNE has arrested COOKE for an offence of burglary. When the officer and her colleagues searched COOKE’s house, several items of property were recovered that did not belong to COOKE. In interview COOKE states that he bought them from a person he would not name, but admits that they are stolen property. TI O’BYRNE makes enquiries regarding the property and finds out the following:

    1. a. An antique gold watch (recovered from COOKE’s living room table) was stolen in the course of a robbery.

    2. b. A flat-screen television (recovered in COOKE’s bedroom) was stolen when a local electrical store was subject to an offence of fraud by false representation.

    3. c. A collection of rare coins (recovered in COOKE’s kitchen) was taken from the owner who was blackmailed into parting with the coins.

    Deal with each item of property in turn. State whether the property would be ‘stolen goods’ and give a short reason why.

    1. a. _________________________________________________________________________________


    2. b. _________________________________________________________________________________


    3. c. _________________________________________________________________________________


19.5.2 Exercise—A Stolen Goods Scenario

Look at the following unfolding scenario. As you examine the scenario, think about the term ‘stolen goods’. A table follows the scenario and underneath the name of the person named you should state what ‘stolen goods’ they possess or possessed. A small section has been completed for you as an example.

  1. 1. BRAY steals a state-of-the-art computer from HART. BRAY takes the computer to TWEED who buys the computer from BRAY for £2,000, knowing that it has been stolen. Then,

  2. 2. BRAY contacts NIXON (a friend of his who is selling a Ford Fiesta car). BRAY boasts to NIXON about how he obtained the £2,000 and then offers NIXON the money in exchange for the Ford Fiesta he is selling. NIXON agrees. Then,

  3. 3. TWEED dismantles the computer. He sells half of the parts to RENSHAW for £500 and the other half to PRICE for £500. Neither RENSHAW nor PRICE knows or believes that the parts they have bought are stolen. Then,

  4. 4. NIXON uses the £2,000 paid for the car to buy a fitted kitchen for his house. Then,

  5. 5. TWEED uses the £1,000 he made from selling the computer parts to RENSHAW and PRICE to buy a Land Rover 4x4 car. Then,

  6. 6. RENSHAW sells the computer parts he purchased from TWEED to POWELL for £600.







The computer

The computer

The £2K from TWEED

19.6 Guilty Knowledge in Cases of Handling

Section 27 of the Theft Act 1968 allows the prosecution to admit evidence of the defendant’s previous behaviour in support of the current charge.

19.6.1 Exercise—Section 27 Scenarios

In the following examples state whether or not evidence of the defendant’s previous behaviour would be admitted. ALL of the offences charged were committed in October 2017.

  1. 1. OPPITZ is charged with offences of theft and handling stolen goods. OPPITZ was convicted of handling in June 2014. Can OPPITZ’s previous conviction for handling be admitted?

    • Yes / No

    • Why / Why not?

    • ____________________________________________________________________________________

  2. 2. MATHAM is charged with handling stolen goods. In February 2017 he innocently bought a leather jacket that had been stolen in January 2017 and, although he was charged with handling the jacket, he was later acquitted of that offence. Can the fact that MATHAM had a stolen jacket in his possession in February 2017 be admitted?

    • Yes / No

    • Why / Why not?

    • ____________________________________________________________________________________

  3. 3. GREATREX is charged with handling stolen goods. GREATREX was convicted of handling stolen goods in September 2011. Can this previous conviction be admitted?

    • Yes / No

    • Why / Why not?

    • ____________________________________________________________________________________

19.7 Conclusion

The offence of handling stolen goods is probably one of the more difficult subjects that you will cover in the Property Offences section. Therefore, study and revision of this subject demands care and attention to detail. Remember that there are several key factors to consider, particularly whether the goods handled are stolen and the state of mind of the defendant at the time of the handling.

19.8 Recall Questions

Try and answer the following questions.

  • What is the definition of handling stolen goods?

  • What is the mens rea required to prove an offence of handling stolen goods?

  • What is the maximum sentence for an offence of handling stolen goods?

  • The commission of which offences will make goods ‘stolen goods’?

  • When will ‘stolen goods’ cease to be ‘stolen’?

  • What are the relevant time periods relating to s. 27 of the Theft Act?

  • What types of misconduct can be admitted as evidence under s. 27 of the Act?

19.9 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. HARDING offers to sell JONES a lawnmower for £30. JONES believes that this is a fair price to pay for the mower and buys it from HARDING in good faith. Several days later a ‘Neighbourhood Watch’ newsletter is delivered to JONES, which features an article on recent thefts from sheds in the area. The stolen items are all listed including serial numbers. JONES checks his lawnmower and finds it is stolen property. Instead of handing the mower to the police, he decides to get rid of it and approaches UXBRIDGE (a known ‘handler’) and asks him if he wants to buy the mower. UXBRIDGE offers him £20 and JONES accepts the money.

At what point, if at all, does JONES commit the offence of handling stolen goods (contrary to s. 22 of the Theft Act 1968)?

  1. A When he pays HARDING £30 for the mower.

  2. B When he finds out the mower is stolen and does nothing about it.

  3. C When UXBRIDGE hands him the money.

  4. D The offence is not committed in these circumstances.

Answer _____________________________

2. COWSER has been charged with an offence of handling stolen goods and has pleaded ‘not guilty’ to the charge. At his trial, the prosecution uses evidence admitted under s. 27 of the Theft Act 1968 with regard to a two-year-old previous conviction COWSER has for an offence of theft.

What is the purpose of this evidence?

  1. A To prove that he received, arranged or assisted in the disposal of the stolen goods.

  2. B To prove that he knew or believed the goods to be stolen.

  3. C To show that COWSER is of ‘bad character’.

  4. D To show that COWSER is dishonest.

Answer _____________________________

3. BATT, ROBINSON and FARROW are drinking in a pub when they are approached by REVILL. REVILL tells the men that he has several Rolex watches for sale and asks them if they are interested. All three men say they are and REVILL produces several Rolex watches for them to examine. All the watches are fakes that REVILL bought and paid for on a recent holiday to Thailand to sell as the genuine article and make a tidy profit in England. BATT asks REVILL how much the watches are and is told ‘£300 to you’. BATT has heard that several identical watches were stolen in a robbery of a nearby jewellery shop and believes that the watches are stolen. ROBINSON and FARROW have not heard about the robbery but ROBINSON also believes the watches to be stolen. FARROW suspects the watches to be stolen. All three men give REVILL £300 and buy watches from him.

Who, if anyone, has committed an offence of handling stolen goods (contrary to s. 22 of the Theft Act 1968)?

  1. A Only BATT commits the offence.

  2. B Only BATT and ROBINSON commit the offence.

  3. C BATT, ROBINSON and FARROW commit the offence.

  4. D The offence has not been committed.

Answer _____________________________

Section 27 of the Theft Act 1968 Illustrated

Section 27 of the Theft Act 1968 Illustrated