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R v Pitham and Hehl [1997]

R v Pitham and Hehl [1997] 65 Cr App R 45 revolved around whether offering something for sale that one does not own, even without physically moving the property, constitutes appropriation under the Theft Act 1968.

A person, referred to as M, sold furniture that belonged to someone else to the defendants. The sale occurred while the furniture was still in the victim's house. The defendants assisted in moving the furniture out to a vehicle for transport. Subsequently, the defendants were charged under Section 22(1) of the Theft Act 1968 for handling stolen goods and were convicted. The defendants appealed, contending that their handling of the furniture was in the course of stealing, and therefore, outside the scope of Section 22(1) of the Theft Act 1968.

The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal. The court held that the handling by the defendants was not in the course of stealing because the theft or appropriation occurred when the offer to sell was made. According to Lawton LJ, the offer to sell constituted an assumption of the rights of an owner, and the point of appropriation was reached at that moment. It was emphasised that it did not matter whether the furniture was physically removed from the property or not.

Even if the owner was never actually deprived of the property, the act of M offering the furniture for sale was deemed an appropriation because M assumed the rights of the owner to sell the furniture. Therefore, the defendants' actions were considered within the scope of the Theft Act 1968.

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