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Theft/Robbery/Burglary


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Theft Act 1968
The statute which gives us the law on theft, robbery and burglary. Replaced the larceny act, which was very confusing by comparison. AO2 - statutes are proactive, difficult to interpret, precise and written by parliament (who aren't necessarily in touch with society).
s1.1 Theft Act
Defines theft: a person is guilty of theft if they dishonestly appropriate property belonging to another with intention to permanently deprive.
Actus Reus of theft
s.3, (appropriation) s.4 (of property) and s.5 (belonging to another).
s3.1 Theft Act
Defines appropriation: assuming the rights of the owner, e.g. to sell, eat, be in possession of, lend or destroy. Also states that there can be an appropriation where D acquires property without stealing it but then later assumes rights of the owner.
Pitham v Hehl
An example of appropriation by assuming the right to sell. D had sold furniture belonging to another person - held to be appropriation. Offering to sell is regarded as appropriation, regardless of whether furniture was actually removed from the house. The moment it was offered to be sold, appropriation had taken place.
Morris
D had switched the price labels of two items on a shelf in a supermarket. He then tried to purchase one of the items, but was then arrested before he went through the checkout. HoL upheld the conviction, as "it is enough for the prosecution if they have proved... the assumption of ANY of the rights of the owner of the goods in question." - i.e, any rights may be assumed, not all.
Lawrence
An Italian student who spoke little English arrived at Victoria station in London and asked to be taken to an address by D, a taxi driver. The journey should have only cost 50p, but D told the student it'd be a very expensive journey. He then produced his wallet and allowed D to take another £6. D argued he'd not committed theft as he had the consent of the student; however (quite rightly) CA and HoL rejected the argument and convicted.
s3.2 Theft Act
D will be innocent if they purchase stolen goods in good faith and for value, and subsequently discovers the person who sold them didnt have the title for them - this section attempts to provide protection in these circumstances.
Gomez
D an assistant at an electrical shop was asked by B to supply goods (£16,000) in exchange for two building society cheques that D knew were stolen. D obtained authority from the manager to supply the goods. D did not tell the manager the cheques were stolen and he had not checked with the bank as he was instructed to do. There was an appropriation even though he acted with the authority of the shop manager. Lawrence was the appropriate authority on the issue of appropriation. Held that the consent of the owner was irrelevant in deciding whether an appropriation had taken place; guilty.
Hinks
D, a carer of a 53-year-old man of low intelligence, had persuaded him to make gifts to her totalling £60,000 - almost all of his savings. Held that appropriation existed even though money was a legal gift in civil law.
Atakpu and Abrahams
The defendants hired luxury cars in Brussels and Germany using false documents, and brought the cars to the UK - they were arrested in Dover. It was held that there was no appropriation, and the theft was completed outside the jurisdiction of UK courts; appropriation couldn't be a continuing act.
s4 Theft Act
Defines the word property: this includes money and all other property, real or personal including things 'in action' and other tangible property. The five items which may be counted as property are money, real property, personal property, things in action and other intangible property.
s4.2 Theft Act
The meaning of property is very wide - this subsection tells us that land is an exception and isn't counted as property.
s4.3 Theft Act
The meaning of property is very wide - this subsection tells us that wild growth (e.g. flowers) is an exception and won't be counted unless it's done for a reward (e.g. picking flowers to sell).
s4.4 Theft Act
The meaning of property is very wide - this subsection tells us wild animals are an exception and won't be counted unless they're taken from a zoo.
Real property
This covers land and buildings - s4 tells us that the theft of real property can only occur in the following three circumstances: 1) A trustee takes land in breach of his duty; 2) Someone not in possession of the land severs part of the land and takes it as his own; 3) A tenant takes a structure from the land which he rents.
Low v Blease
One of three judicial exceptions; tells us electricity is not property and therefore can't be stolen.
Oxford v Moss
One of three judicial exceptions; tells us confidential information can't be stolen, because it's not property.
Kelly and Lindsay
One of three judicial exceptions; tells us corpses aren't property and therefore can't be stolen.
s5 Theft Act
Defines belonging to another - property shall be regarded as belonging to any person having possession or control over it; alternatively having any proprietary interest in it.
Turner No. 2
The defendant left his car in a garage for repairs and took it back using the spare key without paying the bill. Despite D being the car's owner, the car was in possession and control of the garage.
Woodman
D took scrap metal from a disused factory site. The occupiers of the site were unaware that the scrap metal was there, and D claimed that because of this the scrap metal did not belong to another. Despite this, D was convicted due to the occupiers having control over the site, and therefore had control over the property within it.
Hall
Regards s5.3 of the Theft Act. D, a travel agent, received money from his clients to arrange flights to America. None of the flights materialised and D didn't refund the money. The conviction was quashed due to there being no obligation to use each deposit to buy particular tickets.
A-G Ref - No 1 of 1983
D was accidentally overpaid around £75 into her bank account. Held that D had received another's property by mistake - s5.4 stated she was not under an obligation to restore the property.
Mens rea of theft
s.2 (dishonestly) and s.6 (with intention to permanently deprive).
s2 Theft Act
Regards dishonesty - there is no definition provided by the Act for this term.
s2.1 Theft Act
Provides 3 situations in which D's behaviour is not considered dishonest. These are as follows: a) if the property is appropriated by D in the belief that he has in law the right to deprive the other of it, on behalf of himself or a third party; b) appropriates property in the belief that he would have the owner's consent in the circumstances; c) if he appropriates property with the belief that the owner cannot be discovered by taking reasonable steps. These exceptions are all subjective.
Small
D took a car - he said he believed it was abandoned due to unlocked doors, a flat battery, an empty tank, a flat tyre, the keys still being in the ignition, and broken windscreen wipers. He managed to start the car, and was driving it until he saw police flashing their lights at him, at which point he panicked and ran off. CA quashed his conviction because he had an honest belief that the owner could not be found and there was evidence that he might have believed the car was abandoned.
s2.2 Theft Act
A person's appropriation of property belonging to another may be dishonest despite saying he is willing to pay for the property. Although seeming severe, it prevents D from taking what he likes, regardless of the owner's wishes.
Ghosh Test
A two-part test for dishonesty. Firstly, was D dishonest in the eyes of a reasonable person? If not, then D is not guilty as they are not dishonest. If so, D must also have realised that his actions were dishonest in order to pass the test and for dishonesty to be established.
s6 Theft Act
With intention to permanently deprive the other of their property.
s6.1 Theft Act
Intention to treat the thing as their own to dispose of regardless of the other's rights. Borrowing or lending may amount to treating as their own.
Lloyd
D was a projectionist who secretly borrowed films and let his friends make illegal copies of them. The films were returned, undamaged, in time for the showings. There was no intention to permanently deprive as that could only take place if all of the goodness of the item in question was removed, depriving the owner of the practical value of the item - not guilty of theft.
s8 Theft Act
Defines robbery - a person is guilty of robbery if he steals, and immediately before or at the time of the theft, he uses force on or puts someone in fear of being subjected to force, in order to steal.
Actus Reus of Robbery
The two elements required to prove this are theft, along with force or putting or seeking to put any person in fear of force. The force must be immediately before or at the time of the stealing, and used in order to steal.
Robinson
D was owed £7 by V's wife. D approached V and threatened him; in the resulting struggle V dropped a £5 note and D took it claiming he was still owed £2. D's conviction for robbery was quashed by CA as D genuinely believed he had a lawful right, and therefore was not being dishonest. No dishonesty equates to no theft, and no theft equates to no robbery.
Corcoran v Anderton
D1 hit a woman in the back and tugged at her bag. She let go of it and fell to the ground. Ds ran off without it because the woman was screaming and attracting attention. Held that because the theft was complete, the Ds were guilty of robbery.
Dawson and James
D1 pushed V, causing him to lose his balance, allowing D2 to take his wallet. CA held 'force' is an ordinary word and it was for the jury to decide if there had been force.
Clouden
CA held that D was guilty of robbery when he had wrenched a shopping basket from V's hand. CA held that the trial judge was right to leave to the jury the question of whether D had used force on a person. Using force on the bag was essentially using force on V as the bag was wrenched from her hand.
Hale
Two Ds knocked on the door of a house. When a woman opened the door they forced their way into the house; one defendant put his hand over her mouth to stop her screaming while the other went upstairs to see what he could find to take. He took a jewellery box. Before they left the house they tied the woman up and gagged her. They argued on appeal that the theft was complete as soon as the second D picked up the jewellery box, therefore the use of force when trying up the woman wasn't at the time of stealing. However CA upheld convictions on the basis that the appropriation was a continuing act.
Mens Rea of Robbery
The same as the mens rea for theft - s.2 (dishonesty) and s.6 (with intention to permanently deprive). D must also intend to use force in order to steal.
Burglary
A property offence, which differs from the other two studied by introducing elements of trespass. There are two separate ways in which liability for this crime may be established - both do not need to be proven in order to impose liability on the defendant.
s9.1a Theft Act
Enters as a trespasser with intention to steal, inflict GBH or cause unlawful damage. This crime has ulterior intent.
Ulterior intent
D doesn't actually have to commit the crime to be liable; the mens rea on its own will suffice. In the case of a s9.1a, the intention to steal, inflict GBH or cause unlawful damage will impose liability, regardless of whether the actus reus occurs or not.
A-G Ref - Nos 1 and 2 of 1979
Gives us conditional intent and solves the problem of Easom. In cases of attempted theft, D doesn't need to have a specific item in mind to have the required mens rea of intent.
s9.1b Theft Act
Enters a building or part of a building as a trespasser then forms intent and commits either theft or GBH (or attempts to do either).
s9.2 Theft Act
Nominates the particular crimes for burglary, i.e. theft, GBH or criminal damage.
Actus Reus of Burglary
Entry, as a trespasser, to any building or part of a building.
Collins
Regards entry (if you know what I mean). D went past a house where he knew a young lady lived. He climbed a ladder up to her window and peered in. She was lying naked on the bed, which was near the window. D descended the ladder, took off all his clothes, except his socks, and climbed back up the ladder. As he reached the window, the young lady woke up saw a naked man with an erect penis and, thinking he was her boyfriend invited him in; they then had sexual intercourse. She then realised that it was not her boyfriend. This case established that entry must be effective and substantial, which benefits the defence.
Brown
Regards entry. D was seen leaning through a broken shop window with the top half of his body inside a shop as though he was rummaging around. His feet were on the ground outside. He claimed that he could not be said to have entered a building if only part of his body had been inside it. Held that a substantial entry isn't necessary, which benefits the prosecution. Entry only needs to be effective after this case.
Ryan
Regards entry. D burgled a house but only got as far as being trapped by his neck with only his head and right arm inside a window. He was not in a position to steal. An effective entry is no longer necessary after this case, which benefits the prosecution. Literally any body part inside a building will suffice for entry now.
Trespass
For this part of the actus reus of burglary to be satisfied, there must be an absence of consent. This may be express or implied.
Collins
As D was invited in by V, who she mistakenly thought was her boyfriend, into her room for sex, there was no lack of consent and therefore no trespass. Not guilty.
Smith and Jones
D stole two televisions from his father's house, which he had general permission to enter. He had left home, but was allowed to visit. Held that he was reckless and exceeded the consent given by his father - guilty of burglary.
Building
This also applies to an inhabited vehicle or vessel, at times when the person having a habitation in it is not there as well as at times when he is there.
B&S v Leathley
Ds stole meat from a large freezer in a farmyard, which was of a considerable size and had been there for about 2 or 3 years. As it was resting on sleepers and had doors with locks as well as being connected to the electricity supply, it was held to be a building.
Norfolk Constabulary v Seekings
A lorry trailer with wheels which has been used for over a year for storage, had steps that provided access and was connected to the electricity was held not to be a building. The fact that it had wheels meant that it remained a vehicle.
Walkington
Concerns a "part of a building" - in this case, D went into the counter area in a shop and opened a till. He was found guilty of burglary under s9.1a TA because he'd entered a part of a building (the counter area) as a trespasser with the intention of stealing.
s9.4 Theft Act
Concerns the outbuildings of a dwelling - this section tells us that they are counted as a building. Whether or not inhabited, caravans, houseboats and anything similar will count whilst being used as a home.