theft act 1968- theft, robbery and burglary

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Theft Act 1968

Theft, robbery and burglary

Theft Act 1968

distinguishing between the crimes:

Robbery- theft + force

Burglary- Theft + in a building

Key elements


Theft - Theft Act 1968 s(1)

Provides the definition for theft:

A person is guilty of theft if he dishonestly appropriates property belonging to another with the intention to permanently deprive the other of it.

Theft the key elements

3 elements for Actus Reus:

Appropriation s(3)

Property s(4)(1-4)

Belonging to another s(5)(1+3+4)

2 elements for Mens Rea:

Dishonesty s(2)(1)

Intention to permanently deprive s(6)(1)


Defined in Theft Act 1968 s(3) as any assumption by a person of the rights of an owner.

It was held in Morris (1984) that appropriation of goods includes a range of activities and it is not necessary that all the rights of an owner need to be assumed, only one right is needed.

Lawrence (1972) held that appropriation can occur even when property has been handed over with the consent of the owner. Gomez (1993) also found this.

Hinks (1998) held that appropriation can occur even when the property was given as a voluntary gift.

Property- s(4)(1)

Defined in Theft Act 1968 s4 in different subsections.

S4(1) gives a general statement surrounding property: property includes money and all other property, real or personal, including things in action and other intangible property.

Real property= land and buildings.

Personal property= moveable items.

Intangible property= does not exist in a physical sense (copyright of trademarks).

Things in action= a right enforced against another person.

Property- s(4)(2)

S(4)(2) says explicitly when you are capable of stealing land (abbreviated):

(2)a= when is a trustee or personal representative, or is authorised by power of attorney or a liquidator or selling or disposing of land by dealing with it in breach of confidence OR

>the land or rights being transferred are not his to transfer.

(2)b= not in possession and appropriates by severing it OR

>you can commit theft when the owner has not allowed the thief to possess the property. Severing= detaching.

(2)c= whenunder a tenancyappropriates fixtures or structure

>tenants cannot remove fixtures.

Property- s(4)(3)

S(4)(3) states whether plants are property:

A person who picks mushrooms growing wild on any land, or who picks flowers, fruit or foliage from a plant growing wild on any land, does not steal what he picks, unless he does it for reward or for sale.

This states that removal of the whole plant can still form the basis of the offence of theft.

Some wild plants are protected under the Acts of Parliament, and their removal might amount to an offence.

Property- s(4)(4)

S(4)(4) states whether animals are property:

Wild creatures , tamed or untamed, shall be regarded as property.

Once someone else has caught the wild animal, it can then be stolen. It is also theft to take away a pet, such as a cat or a zoo animal.

Oxford v Moss (1978) held confidential info is not property within the meaning of the Theft Act 1968.

Marshall (1998) took into account the value of the tickets before considering it was Theft.

Kelly (1998) held body parts could be property, even though the common law is that there is no property in a corpse.

Belonging to another- s(5)(1)

S(5)(1) states property shall be regarded as belonging to any person having possession or control of it, or having in it any proprietary right or interest.

This means that at the time the property is appropriated it must belong to another. A person who owns the fullest rights over it.

Webster (2006) held that when duplicate property has been delivered to the d by mistake, the d cannot keep the second one.

Turner (No.2)(1971) a person can be convicted of theft where he steals another persons rights over goods.

Woodman (1974) a person can be in control of property even though he does not know that he possesses it.

Williams v Phillips (1957) abandoned property can become the property of the person who owns it.

Belonging to another- s(5)(3+4)

S(5)(3) states that where a person receives property from another and is under obligation to the other to retain and deal with that property or other proceeds shall be regarded as belonging to another.

Davidge and Bunnett (1984) where money and cheques are given for a particular purpose they must be used for that particular person.

DPP v Huskinson (1988) this will only apply if there is a legal rather than moral obligation.

S(5)(4) states that where you are given something by mistake and have a legal obligation to give it back keeping it may be theft.


The word was found to have no legal meaning other than its natural meaning as it was not defined in the Theft Act 1968. Where s(2)(1) gave specific situations where a person would be deemed not dishonest.

The three exceptions were: appropriation in belief you have the right to deprive the other of it; appropriation in the belief that they would have the others consent and; there appropriation cannot be discovered by taking reasonable steps.

Small (1987) states that if you genuinely believe the car had been abandoned you are not guilty of theft.

Dishonesty (cont)

Lord Chief Justice from Ghosh (1982) set out the definitive test for dishonesty. The 2 part test is-

Would the ds behaviour be regarded as dishonest by the standards of reasonable and honest people?*If no then the prosecution fails*

Was the d aware that this conduct would be regarded as dishonest by reasonable and honest people.

The first part of the test is objective and the second part is subjective.

Intention to permanently deprive

Merely borrowing something does not form an intention to permanently deprive. So this provides an excuse for criminals however, evidence is needed to prove intention to permanently deprived.

S(6)(1) helps explain this by stating the 2 aspects.

Disposing of the property regardless of others rights

A borrowing or lending making it equivalent to outright taking or disposal

This can be seen in Marshall (1998) where a sale to another traveller was disposal regardless of the companies rights.

DPP v Jones (2002) taking and destroying of property can amount to an intention to permanently deprive.

Intention to permanently deprive (cont)

The aspects of borrowing have led to some difficulties

Lloyd (1985) taking films from a cinema for a short time for them to be copied does not amount to theft because they did not intend to permanently deprive.

Velumyl (1989) d had intention to permanently deprive because she did not intend to return the same notes and coins.

Easom (1971) held that conditional intent does not satisfy theft.


Robbery - Theft Act 1968 s(8)(1)

Provides the definition for robbery:

A person is guilty of robbery if he steals, and immediately before or at the time of doing so, and in order to do so, he uses force on any person or puts seeks to put any person in fear of being then and there subjected to force.

Robbery- the key elements

2 elements of Actus Reus:

Actus reus of theft

Using or threatening force immediately before or at the time of the theft

2 elements of Mens Rea:

Mens rea of theft

Intent or recklessness, as to the use or threat of force

What amounts to force/threat of force?

Dawson and James (1976) held the word force is given its ordinary meaning.

B+R v DPP (2007) held it does not matter if the v is actually put in fear or not, it is the ds intention that matters.

Clouden (1987) held that the force does not have to be direct force on the victim. The word force is all thats required.

Bentham (2005) held that as long as there is an intention to create fear it does not matter that the threat was not real.

When does force or threat have to take place?

Immediately before, or at the time of the stealing.

Hale (1978) the act of stealing can be a continuing act, the jury decide when the appropriation is complete.

Corcoran and Anderton (1980) knocking a handbag out of the vs grasp with force was sufficient for there to be a robbery, even though the robber did not take the bag.

The connection between the force and threat

The force, or threat of force, must be used in order to steal.

Say the force was used for a different purpose, like rape, then it is not robbery. So if the force was used to allow the theft to happen then it is robbery.

Hale (1978) held tying up a woman to allow for the theft satisfies the force element or robbery.

So basically



Burglary- Theft Act 1968 s(9)(1)

Provides the definition for burglary:

A person is guilty of burglary if

(1)(a) he enters any buildings or part of a building as a trespasser and with intent to commit any such offence; or

(1)(b) having entered any building or part of a building as a trespasser he steals or attempts to steal anything in the building or that part of it or inflicts or attempts to infliction person there in any GBH.


Burglary- the key elements (9)(1)(a)

3 elements of A


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