B & S v Leathley [1979] Crim LR 314


Burglary – definition of a ‘building under Theft Act 1968.


 The defendants, B and S, entered a freezer container that had been placed in a farmyard and stole goods from it. The container was resting on sleepers, weighed three tons and was twenty-five foot long by seven by seven feet. It had not been moved for over two years, had door and locks, and was connected to the mains electricity supply. The defendant was charged with burglary and subsequently appealed the decision to the Crown Court.


Whether the trailer was a ‘building’ for the purposes of the Theft Act 1968. Under s.9(1)(a) of the 1968 Act a person commits burglary only if they enter a building or part of a building as a trespasser. The term ‘building’ is not defined except in s.9(4) which states that it may include an inhabited vehicle. There is nothing which states the building must be occupied. 


The container was a ‘building’ for the purposes of the 1968 Act. The court referred to Stevens v Gourley (1859) 141 ER 742 which pre-dated the Act and in which it was held that a building was ‘a structure of considerable size and intended to be permanent or at least to endure for a considerable time’ (per Byles J at 112). The container fulfilled this criteria as it was likely to remain there for the foreseeable future. Therefore, it was a building for the purposes of the 1968 Act. Consequently, the defendant’s appeal was rejected.