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You are charged with theft what does this mean?

Theft is defined by section 1 of the Theft Act 1968 as “the dishonest appropriation of property belonging to another with the intention to permanently deprive the other of it”.

When the Police/CPS look to charge someone with theft, each element of the statement above must be established for a defendant to be found guilty of the crime:

  • Appropriation
  • Of property
  • Belonging to another
  • Dishonestly
  • With intention to permanently deprive

Appropriation is defined by section 3 of the Theft Act 1968 as “assuming the rights of a legal owner of the property without consent”. A legal owner has the absolute right to use this property for a particular function. A good example would be a car. An individual owns the vehicle and chooses where they drive it to and who they give their permission to use it.

If another individual removes the vehicle and drives it away without the owner’s permission this is deemed appropriation. Following on from this when an individual is given permission to the use the vehicle by its owner (a test drive for example) and they do not return and have no intension of returning the vehicle to its owner this again is deemed appropriation.

Property includes money and numerous other items belonging to another.

Personal property includes property other than land, such as vehicles, electrical appliances, antiques and all other physical objects. Real property means land and anything fixed to the land, including houses and outbuildings.

Belonging to another under Section 5 of the Theft Act, property belongs to another person if that person has possession or control of it.

Dishonesty is determined in two ways and identified by the courts:

According to the ordinary standards of reasonable and honest people, was the act carried out dishonest?

If it was dishonest by those standards (above), did the defendant realise that reasonable and honest people would regard the conduct as dishonest?

It will be a defence to a theft charge if you can show that you had a genuine belief that you had the legal right to appropriate the property; the owner would have consented; or the owner cannot be traced by taking reasonable steps.

Intention to permanently deprive is arguably the most difficult element to prove. However, in many cases, it will be evident that this is satisfied before prosecuting.

For instance, if someone was to run out of an electrical shop holding a TV without paying and get into a waiting car, it should be apparent that the offender intended to do this and leave without making payment.

If you have been found guilty of theft you can expect a sentence of around 6 months if your case is heard at the Magistrates Court

If you have been charged with theft then contact Noble Solicitors as soon as possible who will refer you to one of our specialist Criminal Solicitors that will guide you through your rights in this situation.

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