Norfolk Constabulary v Seekings & Gould [1986] Crim LR 167

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


The defendants, Seekings and Gould, were convicted of attempted burglary of two articulated lorry trailers that were being used as temporary storage space during building work on a supermarket. The trailers had been unhitched and stood on their own wheels and struts. An electric cable was attached to each trailer to supply lighting and heating. Steps had also been built against each trailer, and access was gained by the ordinary trailer shutters. The trailers had been used in that way for about one year. The defendants appealed against conviction in the Crown Court.


The defendants argued that the trailers were not ‘buildings’ for the purposes of the 1968 Act Under s.9 Theft Act 1968 a person commits burglary only if they enter a building or part of a building as a trespasser. The term ‘building’ is only defined by s.9(4) which states that it may include an inhabited vehicle or vessel.


The appeal was allowed. The court held that the trailers were not ‘buildings’ for the purposes of the 1968 Act. The court pointed out that s.9(4) Theft Act 1968 specifically says that a vehicle is only a building when it is inhabited, whereas a building may be burgled at any time, whether inhabited or empty. The adaptations made to the vehicles did not mean that their character was changed from what was essentially a vehicle. The court distinguished B & S v Leathley as in that case the trailer had no wheels and was immobile.