R v Hinks [2000] UKHL 53

Unlawful appropriation of “gifted” money under the Theft Act 1968


The defendant (H) was a carer for a man of limited intelligence (D). H persuaded D to make a series of payments to her from his bank account which she contended were gifts. H was charged with theft.


The key issue for the House of Lords to consider was whether there was an “appropriation” in terms of section 1 of the Theft Act 1968 where H accepted a gift of property from the D in circumstances where the D was not entitled, as a matter of civil law, to have the gift set aside or the value returned. H argued that she had acquired a valid gift and, accordingly, there was no appropriation as appropriation requires the victim to retain some proprietary interest or right to resume or recover some proprietary interest in the property (R v Morris [1984] AC 320).


The effect of the earlier decisions in R v Gomez [1993] AC 442 and Lawrence v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis [1972] A.C. 626 is that the meaning of “appropriates” in section 1 of the Theft Act 1968 places increased emphasis on dishonesty. Therefore, based on Lawrence and Gomez, the Court rejected the submission that a person does not appropriate property unless the victim retains some proprietary interest or the right to resume or recover some proprietary interest. A gift could be appropriation where the grantee had acted dishonestly. Furthermore, the Court held that an act does not require to be unlawful under the general law to constitute an “appropriation.”