Written by Peter Fisher
Theft is a relatively straightforward concept that usually makes people think of a bank robbery, an apple stolen from a market stall or a mugging with a bladed article. However, there are also some things that individuals often do not think of that are considered theft.
Theft is defined under the Theft act 1968 as the “the appropriation of goods, belonging to another with dishonesty and an intention to permanently deprive them of it” Theft is a separate offense to burglary which involves trespass and robbery which involves violence in order to take goods.
You may be reading this and thinking well, I’ve never stolen something off someone, and I’ve never broken into someone’s house or threatened them to give me their things so I’m not a thief. However, if you’ve ever been given too much change by a shopkeeper and kept it, if you’ve ever been overpaid and kept the additional payment, found a mobile phone and kept it, or if you’ve forgotten to return a library book and decided to keep it. Then by definition of the act you are a thief.
Section 5(4) of the act states that goods given by mistake are still the property of the owner, so in the first example you ‘appropriate’ that means to assume ownership of the goods, being the money, which belongs to the shopkeeper and upon realising you’ve been given too much you have dishonestly kept it with an intention to permanently deprive the owner of it. The other examples are similar.
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