R v Walkington (Terence John) [1979] 1 WLR 1169; (1979) 68 Cr App R 427

Burglary – entering part of a building as a trespasser intending to steal under Theft Act 1968.


The defendant, Walkington, was in a department store when he went behind the unoccupied counter area on the shop floor and opened the cash till drawer. On seeing it was empty he left and was arrested by a store detective. He admitted that if there had been money in the till he would have stolen it. He was convicted of burglary and appealed to the Court of Appeal.


Under s.9(1)(a) Theft Act 1968 a person commits burglary if they enter a building or part of a building with intent to steal. The defendant argued that he had not realized he was a trespasser when he went behind the counter, or that he was entering part of a building as he was already in the building lawfully as a customer. He argued that it was impossible to separate any part of a building from the whole in such a large store. He also argued that his intent to steal was conditional on there being any property worth stealing in the till.


The court dismissed the appeal. The court held that the area behind the counter was part of a building under s.9(1)(a) Theft Act 1968. Therefore, it was for the jury to decide whether the defendant had entered it as a trespasser. The court held that an intention to steal can exist even though, unknown to the accused, there is nothing to steal. The fact that the till was empty did not destroy the defendant’s intention to steal.