Elements Of The Theft Act

Theft act 1968 (TA) Section 1(1) defined as “A person is guilty of theft if he dishonestly appropriates, property, belonging to another with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it; and ‘thief’ and ‘steal’ shall be construed accordingly"1. Maximum penalty of Theft is for seven years imprisonment on conviction and on indictment. To commit a theft Act 1968 (TA) it must be proved both Actus Rea and Mens Rea. There are five elements under the Theft act (1968), Appropriation, Property and Belonging to another and for Mens Rea dishonestly, and with the intention of permanently depriving.

Appropriation is the first element of theft Act (1968). Section 3(1) defined as “any assumption by a person of the rights of an owner amount to an appropriation, and this, includes, where he has come by the property (innocently or not) without stealing it, any later assumption of a right to it by keeping or dealing with it as owner"2. Section 1(2) of the theft act 1968 act provides that “it is immaterial whether the appropriation is made with a view or gain, or is made for the thief’s own benefit"2. Appropriation is a wide in its operation in which it all includes like taking, and destroying. In recent years courts presented two major issues which relates to meaning of appropriation which are ‘ whether the defendant must assume all of the rights of an owner, or whether it is sufficient that s/he assumes one of the rights of an owner,’ and ‘ whether appropriation must be a non-consensual (unauthorised) act’3.

DPP v Gomez [1993]4, The Defendant Edwin Gomez, was employed as an assistant manager in a trading shop, for retailing in electrical goods as; he was approached by a customer and wanted to acquire goods in exchange of two stolen cheques. For exchange of cheques he deceived the shop manager and authorizes the sales of goods while knew that the cheques were stolen. The defendant was charged for the theft contrary section 1(1) of the (TA) theft act (1968). It was held by judge that the goods had been sold between shop keeper and customer so for that reason there had been no appropriation of property to belonging to another. Therefore he pleaded guilty and was convicted, he appealed in court of appeal (criminal division) they allowed his appeal against conviction5.

1. Theft act 1968




3.Www. Spa-law.com, Semple Piggot Rochez Ltd, 2001

4. A.C. 442


In R v Morris [1984] 6 defendants dishonestly switched the price tags of goods and put lower price into supermarket trolley. The defendant was arrested before paid lower price and charged with theft act (1968). It is sufficient that defendant was assumes the rights of an owner, and can only happen without the consent of the owner. However, there are different types of appropriation which includes moving, touching, taking using disposing, selling, and destroying.7

However according to courts that in DPP v Gomez [1993] there could be restriction, where the case obtained by deception rather than general. The area of law is an unsatisfactory, where it combined the ratio, which effect in Morris and Gomez that the appropriation has a wider in a range8. The most difficult issues of appropriation are that whether an act is unauthorized / nonconsensual or authorized consensual act. According to Lord Roskill that authorization destroys an appropriation9. In earlier case R v Lawrence (1972)10 it was approved by House of Lord that consent did not destroy an appropriation11.

Section 3(2) theft Act (1968) “where property or a right or interest in property is or purports to be transferred for value to a person acting in good faith, no later assumption by him of rights which he believed himself to be acquiring shall, by reason of any defect on the transferor’s title, amount to theft of the property"12.

The statutory definition of second element of theft act (1968) is defined under s.4 (1) is “property includes money and all other property, real or personal, including things in action and other intangible property"12. Section 4 covers both tangible and intangible objects, and in addition to expressly covers the money.

6. AC 320

7. Www. Spa-law.com, Semple Piggot Rochez Ltd, 2001

8. http://www.leeds.ac.uk/law/hamlyn/rvgomez.htm

9. Www. Spa-law.com, Semple Piggot Rochez Ltd, 2001

10. AC 62

11. Www. Spa-law.com, Semple Piggot Rochez Ltd,

According to s.4 (1) theft act 1968, that currency is the property and kind of money which it refers, however cheques is not a money but it is a property, because it is a piece of a paper in the form of cheque (personal property)9. It is represented by things in action for right to sue in a form of intangible property. Money in a bank account in credits or within an overdraft facility is a “thing in action", capable of being stolen10. R. v. Kohn (1979)11defendant drew various cheques on different bank company accounts, the processed is for his own personal benefit 12. There are three types of categories in which theft fell on; the first situation is where when the Bank Company was in credits12. In this instance the drawing of cheques on the company bank amounted to be theft and was identified as the owed by the bank, the second point is where the balance of the company bank was in overdraft, the amount dishonestly drawn and did not exceed the agreed limit12. Thirdly, there were occasions where overdrafts exceed the limit12. However, here there would be no action relationship between debtors/ creditor was arisen and the bank has no obligation to make cheques draws on these accounts12. So if the bank account is in credit or overdraft within the facility limit then there is capable property to be stolen12.

The third element of (Actus Reus) of theft act (1968) is Belonging to another, which is defined under section 5 (1) that ‘property shall be regarded as belonging to any person having possession or control of it, or having in it proprietary right or interest (not being an equitable interest arising only from an agreement to transfer or grant an interest) 13’.

In Waverley borough council v Fletcher [1995]14defendant used mental detector in a park and discovered an object below the surface. Defendant dug the surface and found valuable medieval gold brooch. Local authority issued proceedings against defendant, claiming a declaration that the brooch is the property of local authority. It was held by the court that local authority was entitled and has a right of the finder to things which found in the ground of that open space but it should be the rightful owner.

9. All England Law Reports

10.Www. Spa-law.com, Semple Piggot Rochez Ltd,

11. 69 Cr. App.R.395 12.http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=YHDEf_0FF9cC&pg=PR36&dq=R+v+Kohn+1979&cd=1#v=onepage&q=R.%20v.%20Kohn%20%281979&f=false


14. 4 All ER 756


In Parker v. British Airways Board [1982] @ Q.B. 1004