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Is defined under s.1 of the Theft Act (1968) as "dishonestly appropriating property belonging to another with the
intention of permanently depriving the other it".
The next five sections of the act define the meaning of words and phrases used within the definition.
The actus reus: appropriation, of property, belonging to another.
The mens rea: dishonestly with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it.
Is defined under s.3(1) of the Theft Act as "any assumption by a person of the rights of an owner amounts to
appropriation"; these rights include buying, selling, possessing, consuming, using and even destroying property.
Therefore an appropriation is when the thief assumes one of the owners' rights.
o An example of assuming one of the rights can be seen in Pitham v Hehl (1977) where the D sold furniture
belonging to V, it was held that he had taken over one the owner's rights; the right to sell the property,
therefore he was liable.
The assumption of a person's rights can be any of the rights; it does not have to be all. This is illustrated in Morris
(1983) where the D switched price labels within a supermarket. His conviction was upheld by the HoL's with Lord
Roskill stating that it can be "the assumption of any of the rights of the owner". Therefore, Morris had taken the
right of the owner to put a price label on their goods.
Consent to taking goods can still, in some situations, be held to be an appropriation. Lawrence (1971) was when
V was charged 50p for a taxi, but Lawrence stated that he had not given him enough even though he had given
him £1, Lawrence took £6. The HoL's rejected the argument that an appropriation had not occurred just because
the student consented.
Gomez (1993) was when D sought to buy £17,000's worth of electrical goods but used faulty cheques. It was
held by the HoL's that a theft can occur even when the owner's consent to the D taking the property has
occurred. The defendant need not do anything contrary to the owner's wishes.
Accepting a gift can also amount to an appropriation; in Hinks (2000) D befriended a man with low IQ who gave
her £60,000 and a television, however he understood the concept of ownership and making a valid gift.
Although, the HoL's dismissed the appeal stating that the precedent from Gomez (1993) made it clear that an
appropriation of property can still occur when consent is given therefore it was accepted to include a valid gift.
Furthermore, the appropriation has to occur at one point of time (Gomez, 1993).
o This is also illustrated in Atakpu and Abrahams (1994) where the D's hired cars from foreign countries, the
CoA held that the appropriation has to occur at one point of time; in this case it happened when they
received the cars. Therefore driving them in England was not an appropriation.
S.3(1) makes it clear that an appropriation can also occur without the D stealing the property but later decides to
keep or deal the property. For example, when a person rents a video and decides to keep it. He is acting as
though he is the owner with the right to keep the video.
Defined under s.4(1) of the Theft Act as including "money and all other property real or personal, including things
in action and other intangible property".
Personal property includes moveable items such as books, CDs, jewellery. It can include large items like
aeroplanes and trivial items like paper. It has also been held to include dead body parts (Kelly and Lindsay, 1998).
It was held that body parts came under the definition if used for particular purposes such as teaching.
Real property refers to land; under s.4(1) land can be stolen, but only in three ways (s.4(2)).
o The trustee or personal representative takes the land in breach of his duties.
o Someone not in possession of the land severs anything that is part of the land e.g. digging up
o A tenant takes a fixture or structure from the land let to him.
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Things in action can be such things as bank accounts. The customer has a right to payment of the amount he
possesses in the account; therefore if the D causes the band to debit another account he was appropriated the
Intangible property refers to property that has no physical presence. For example an export quota for textiles
(Attorney-General's Reference for Hong Kong v Chan Nai-Keung, 1987).…read more
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o In Attorney-General's Reference (No.1 of 1983) (1985) the D had received an extra £74.74 from her
employer by mistake. It was held by the CoA that she was under an obligation to make restoration and her
failure to do this meant she was permanently depriving the other of their property.
o In Gilks (1972) it was held that there must be a legal obligation to restore the property.