- Slides: 15
Theft – Actus Reus
Definition • S. 1 Theft Act 1968 – Dishonest appropriation of property belonging to another with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it Theft Actus Reus Appropriation Property Mens Rea Belonging to another Dishonest Intention to permanently deprive the other of it
Actus Reus - Appropriation • S. 3 Theft Act 1968: • Assumption by a person of the rights of the owner – including where he has come by the property (innocently or not) without stealing it, any later assumption of the rights of the owner • Assuming the rights of the owner of the property • Often amounts to taking property from the owner but also has a much wider interpretation and includes any act where D has done anything to the property that only the owner can do – e. g. possess it, use it, consume it, sell it, lend it, hire it, damage or destroy it • Does not need to assume all of the rights – any of the rights will suffice • Morris – D dishonestly switched labels on goods in a supermarket to show lower prices, put the item in the basket and taken item to the checkout. He was arrested before he had gone through the checkout. Court held switching of the labels and placing them into the basket was the appropriation – it is enough for assumption of any of the rights of the owner – does not need to be all of the rights.
Appropriation • Pitham and Hehl – D sold property belonging to another person – held to be an appropriation • Lawrence – considered whethere can be appropriation when the owner has given consent – taxi passenger gave wallet to driver (D) to take out appropriate fare. D took out 20 times as much as the fare. D claimed he had not appropriated any money but court held appropriation can still occur even when there has been consent • Gomez – confirmed the decision in Lawrence • Hinks – appropriation can take place even where there is a voluntary gift – in this case woman (D) befriended middle-aged man of low intelligence, accompanied him daily to the cash point where he withdrew £ 300 per day and placed the money into her own account amounting to £ 60, 000 in 7 months – almost all of his money – court held appropriation had taken place and that the issue of consent was relevant to dishonesty (MR) not to appropriation • Can also be an appropriation when D acquires property without stealing it but then later decides to keep or deal with the property as owner. Appropriation takes place at the point of keeping or dealing with the property – e. g. hiring a DVD and hen deciding to keep it, borrowing a bicycle but the selling it or giving it away
Actus Reus - Property • S. 4(1) Theft Act 1968 – “property includes money and all other property, real or personal, including things in action and other intangible property”
Property - Real Property • “Real property” – land buildings • S. 4(2) Theft Act 1968 – real property can only be stolen in the following circumstances: • A trustee or personal representative takes land in breach of his duties • Someone not in possession of land severs anything forming part of the land from the land • A tenant takes a fixture or structure from the land
Property - Personal Property • “Personal property” – all moveable items e. g. cars, handbags, jewellery, mobile phones • Kelly – court decided that body parts could be personal property for the purposes of theft if they have been treated in some way e. g. dissecting or preserving for medical purposes. D had removed a number of body parts from the Royal College of London without permission and without the intention of returning them.
Property - Things in Action • “Things in action” – things that can only be enforced by a court action • E. g. bank account, a cheque, copyright, registered trade marks, a ticket • Marshall – D was video-recorded obtaining London underground tickets or travel cards from members of the public passing through the barriers and reselling them to other customers. Court held the tickets belonged to London underground and not to the travellers
Property – Other Intangible Property • Other rights which have no physical presence • E. g. a patent • Oxford v Moss – confidential information is not property. A student “borrowed” an examination paper to obtain information on the forthcoming exam. He copied the paper and returned it. Court held the confidential information was not property.
Property - Exceptions • S. 4(3) Theft Act 1968 – “property” does not include mushrooms and plants growing wild, unless taken for “reward or sale or other commercial purpose” • Person foraging for wild food is not guilty of theft unless he does so to sell to someone else or the person has been paid to collect the wild food. Foraging is just picking from a plant, if the whole plant is removed, this can be classed as “property” • S. 4(4) Theft Act 1968 – excludes wild creatures unless they have been tamed or kept in captivity
Actus Reus – Belonging to Another • S. 5 Theft Act 1968 – property is regarded as belonging to any person who has possession or control of it, or having any proprietary right or interest in it • This sometimes involves rights which are less than ownership
Belonging to Another – Possession or Control • Possession – the physical ability to enjoy the property • Owner or property usually has possession and control over it but there are other situations where a person can have possession or control over it • Someone who hires a car has possession and control during the period of the hire. If car stolen during this time, thief can be charged with stealing it from the hirer • Possession or control does not have to be lawful – where B steals property from A and later C steals it from B, B is in possession or control and C can be charged with stealing from B – useful when it is not known who the original owner is • Turner – can be guilty of stealing your own property - D left car at a garage for repairs. When repairs nearly completed, D used a spare key to take car during the night without paying for repairs – court held that garage was in possession or control of car and D could be guilty of stealing his own car • Woodman – can be in possession or control of property even though you don’t know it is there
Belonging to Another – Property Received under an Obligation • S. 5(3) Theft Act 1968 – where a person receives property from another and is under an obligation to the other to retain and deal with that property in a particular way, the property shall be regarded as belonging to the other person • Hall – there must be an obligation to deal with the property in a particular way – not theft when D, a travel agent, paid deposits for flights into his firm’s account and was later unable to repay the money as there had been no special arrangements for the deposits to be used in a particular way • Davidge v Bunnett – D given money by flatmates to pay the gas bill but instead used it to buy Christmas presents – court held there was a legal obligation and D guilty of theft • Wain – when collecting money for charitable donations there is an obligation to repay the amount collected, although not the actual notes and coins that were donated
Belonging to Another – Abandoned Property • If property is abandoned, there is no owner of that property and so therefore there would be no theft • Problem is establishing what amounts to abandoned? : • A lost item does not amount to abandonment and a person who finds and keeps it can be guilty of theft • If something is left deliberately, e. g. a newspaper on a train, it has been abandoned as the original owner no longer wants it • Rubbish left in a dustbin for the council to collect becomes owned by the council • Williams v Phillips – refuse collectors were convicted of theft of refuse as they had collected and sold on sacks of rags and wool they had collected without telling the council
Belonging to Another – Property Obtained by Mistake • S. 5(4) Theft Act 1968 – where a person gets property by another’s mistake, and is therefore under a legal obligation to give it back, the property is treated as still belonging to the other person • E. g. being overpaid wages by mistake – have an obligation to return that amount, so keeping it can be theft • A-G’s Reference (No. 1 of 1983) – if there is a dishonest intention not to make restoration of property obtained by mistake, this would be theft