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Theft under Theft Act 1968

Theft is a criminal offence that involves the dishonest appropriation of another person's property without their consent, with the intention to permanently deprive them of it. Sections 1–7 of the Theft Act 1968 set out the legal framework of this offence, including its definition and sentencing, in England and Wales.


Section 1: Basic Definition of Theft

A person is guilty of theft if he dishonestly appropriates property belonging to another with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it.


Section 7: Sentencing

A person guilty of theft shall on conviction on indictment be liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding seven years.


The key points and interpretation of theft under Sections 2–6 are as follows:


Dishonesty: To establish theft, the appropriation must be accompanied by dishonesty. The law defines dishonesty as acting with the intention to permanently deprive the owner of the property. However, the Act also provides certain circumstances in which a person may still be considered dishonest, even if they claim a right to the property or have the owner's consent. You are advised to refer to Section 2 of the Act for the exact definition.


Appropriation: Appropriation refers to any act of assuming the rights of an owner over property. It includes taking, obtaining, using, or retaining control over the property. It can also include instances where a person has a lawful right to the property but exceeds that right or abuses it. It is immaterial whether the appropriation is made with a view to gain, or is made for the thief’s own benefit. You are advised to refer to Sections 1 and 3 of the Act for the exact definition.


Property: The term "property" encompasses a wide range of things, including money, goods, personal belongings, land, intellectual property, and other valuable assets. Property can be tangible (physical objects) or intangible (such as bank account balances or computer data). You are advised to refer to Section 4 of the Act for the exact definition.


Belonging to another: The property that is subject to theft must belong to someone other than the person who appropriates it. The owner may have possession, control, or a proprietary interest in the property. Property can belong to an individual, a company, an organisation, or the public. You are advised to refer to Section 5 of the Act for the exact definition.


Intention to permanently deprive: The final element of theft is the intention to permanently deprive the owner of the property. This means that the person appropriating the property intends to treat it as their own, without any intention of returning it to the owner. It can involve selling, destroying, disposing of, or keeping the property. You are advised to refer to Section 6 of the Act for the exact definition.


Sentencing: If someone is found guilty of theft, the potential penalties can vary depending on the value of the property stolen and other aggravating factors. The court may impose fines, community orders, or custodial sentences, depending on the seriousness of the offence.


It is important to note that theft may have specific variations or additional elements depending on the circumstances. You are advised to refer to the full text of the Theft Act 1968 for comprehensive and accurate information regarding the offence of theft and its specific application in a given situation.


You can learn more about this topic and relevant case law with our Criminal Law notes.

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