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R v Hall [1985] 81 Cr App R 260

Handling of Stolen Goods – Mens Rea – Belief

Facts

The defendant, Hall, was accused of handling stolen property.  He denied knowing that it was stolen, stating only that he was suspicious of the property but that he did not know that was.  The defendant was charged with handling stolen goods contrary to s22(1) Theft Act 1968.  He was convicted and appealed.

Issue

Whether the defendant’s belief that the goods were stolen was sufficient to ensure that the defendant was ‘dishonest’ for the purposes of s22(1) Theft Act 1968.  Whether the defendant must have known that the goods were stolen.

Held

A defendant may be guilty of handling stolen goods contrary to s22(1) Theft Act 1968 when he either knows that the goods were stolen or believed that they were.  Belief is something less than knowledge but the distinction between knowledge and belief is not crucial as either state is sufficient for liability.  The Court held that a person ‘knows’ that goods have been stolen if he has first-hand knowledge of the fact, or if someone with first-hand knowledge such as the thief tells him that it is so.  The defendant can also be guilty if he ‘believes’ it.  The defendant may be said to ‘believe’ goods are stolen if, although he does not know for certain, he realises that there is no other reasonable conclusion that could be drawn in the circumstances that they were aware of.  This belief or knowledge that the defendant is said to have, is an issue for the jury to consider, and in difficult cases they should be directed as such.


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