Criminal Law - The Actus Reus of Theft

  • Created by: Alasdair
  • Created on: 20-11-20 14:24
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  • 2. The Actus Reus of Theft
    • Appropriation
      • Appropriation is the physical act required by defendant to establish actus reus
      • Dictionary meaning (legal meaning much wider)
        • 'to make to be the private property of anyone: to take to oneself as one's own: to filch'
      • Section 3(1) of the Theft Act 1968
        • 'Any assumption by a person of the rights of an owner amounts to an appropriation, and this includes, where he has come by the property (innocently or not) without stealing it, any later assumption of a right to it by keeping or dealing with it as owner.'
      • Appropriation under TA 1968 therefore is any assumption of the rights of an owner.
    • The Rights of an Owner
      • In some cases of theft, defendant has appropriated property with consent of owner
        • Often consent will have been obtained by fraud on part of defendant
          • but one issue courts have had to determine is whether there is appropriation where defendant assumes rights of owner with owner's consent
      • The House of Lords in four notable cases
        • Has given its decisions on what is meant by an assumption of rights of an owner
          • Therefore meaning of appropriation
      • R v Morris [1984] and Lawrence v Metropolitan Police Commissioner [1972]
        • Morris
          • Defendant, who was in supermarket shopping, switched price labels on two pieces of meat.
            • Meant he paid £2.73 for meat priced  £6.91
          • House of Lords had to decide whether act of switching price  libels amounted to appropriation of meat
            • Lordships decided it did as owner's right (in this case supermarket) to decide what price to sell goods.
          • Lords decided  appropriation was:
            • an act which adversely interferes with or usurps 'any right of an owner'. It is an act which is unauthorised.
            • An assumption of any one right of an owner.
              • To appropriate you had to usurp
        • Lawrence v MPC
          • Foreign student, who did not speak English very well, took taxi ride. Correct fare for which should have been in region of 50p.
          • Student offered  £1 note and taxi driver (defendant) intimiated this wasn't enough, taking £6 from the student's proferred wallet
          • Defendant charged with theft of £6 and House of Lords had to decide whether there had been appropriation
          • Lords said act did amount to appropropriation
            • S 3(1) of TA 1968 contained word without the consent of the owner' and therefore allowed it was irrelevant if owner did consent to taking of money
    • Conflict between Morris and Lawrence
      • Morris said appropriation had to be 'unauthorised act'
        • i.e. something to which owner had not consented.
      • In Lawrence, Lords said issue of whether  or not owner had consented was irrelevant
        • Hence taxi driver had appropriated  £6 even though student had consented to it
    • DPP v Gomez [1993]
      • Assistant manager supplied goods to a customer which customer paid for with two stolen cheques
        • Assistant Manager knew they were stolen and were therefore worthless but still got the manager to authorise the transaction
      • Defendant was charged and convicted of theft at trial but appealed
      • Lords decided when theft  is alleged to be stolen passes defendant with consent of owner, but that  has been obtained by false representation
        • an appropriation, within meaning of s 1(1) of TA 1968 has taken place
        • Such a passing of property doesn't necessarily involve element of adverse interference with or usurpation of some right of owner
      • Lords agreed  with decision in Morris
        • you only had to assume one of rights of owner for appropriation
      • Majority view was question in Morris was whether act  had to be unauthorised was unnecessary for decision (obiter dictum)
      • Majority of Lords in Gomez confirmed appropriation occurred even if property passed with consent or authorisation of owner
      • Practical effect
        • virtually anything you do to property that is not yours is appropriation
          • doesn't follow that it is theft as other four elements of offence must also be present


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