Criminal Defence Solicitors – Theft

If you or someone you know is facing theft, robbery or other charges involving dishonesty, take urgent expert advice from specialist criminal defence solicitors.  The criminal team at Qamar Solicitors have years of experience advising and representing clients who have been charged with offences of dishonesty.

These crimes are often serious, and seeking specialist advice as early as possible in the investigation will give you the best chance in defending the charges. Criminal law can be complex and difficult to understand.  We enable our clients to understand the nature of the charges against them, and to advise them on the best way to proceed.

What is theft?

Under Section 1 of the Theft Act 1968, theft (or stealing) is the dishonest appropriation of property belonging to someone else with the intention to permanently deprive them of it. Theft can include many scenarios including shoplifting, taking a vehicle without consent, stealing from employers and breaches of trust.

There are five elements that the prosecution must satisfy to obtain a conviction for theft:

‘Dishonesty’

Whether or not someone was dishonest is measured against the standards of the reasonable and honest person. The individual must know he or she was acting in a dishonest way. A willingness to pay for the property taken will not of itself absolve the individual of dishonesty.

There is no dishonesty where:

  • The individual genuinely believed he or she had the legal right to appropriate the property for him or herself or a third party
  • The individual believed that the owner would have consented if the owner knew of the appropriation of the property and the relevant circumstances – ie the element of dishonesty is absence
  • The individual takes property in the genuine believe that the owner cannot be discovered by taking reasonable steps to find them
  • The defendant genuinely believed the item had not been misappropriated, or thrown away

Shoplifting is also theft.  However, an element of dishonesty must be present.  If, for instance, the defendant can satisfy the court that he or she walked out of a shop with items without paying for them because of being genuinely distracted, or the defendant forgot about them, a conviction may be avoided.

‘Appropriation’

Appropriation takes place when someone assumes the lawful rights of the property owner in question – whether or not that person actually stole it directly from the owner.  For example, if you find something that you know does not belong to you but you decide to keep it as your own, this assumes a right to the property and can amount to theft.

However, this will be a question of fact: if the item found is valuable or of good condition, or is otherwise clearly lost rather than thrown away, keeping the item may amount to theft and the ‘finder’ could face prosecution.

Appropriation also extends to modifying, lending or destroying property.

‘Property’

Property includes both tangible objects (including money) and intangible things such as intellectual property rights.

‘Belonging to another’

The property must have belonged to someone else who had lawful possession and or control of it.  If property is abandoned, it does not ‘belong’ to anyone.  This means if someone takes abandoned property to claim has his own, the offence of theft has not occurred.

‘Intention to permanently deprive’

This means the person must have intended not to return the property to its lawful owner (whether or not the item can still be used). Lost property, for instance, still belongs to its lawful owner – even if his or her identity is unknown. It is important to note that theft can still be established where the item or property has been returned to the owner – but in a condition which is such that it is of no use to the owner.  For instance, a stolen car that is later returned following a crash.

Defences

Where any element of the offence of theft cannot be proved by the prosecution, the defendant must be acquitted. If the defence can prove there was an intention to return the property the defendant will be acquitted.

Prosecution

Theft is an offence triable either way.  This means it can be dealt with in the Magistrates’ Court or the Crown Court (depending on the facts of the case).  If the magistrates decide their sentencing powers are inadequate in the following circumstances, the case will be sent to the Crown Court:

  • There is breach of trust by a person in authority or in whom a high degree of trust is placed
  • The theft is disguised or was a sophisticated theft
  • The offence was committed by an organised gang
  • The victim is particularly vulnerable
  • Property not yet recovered is worth at least £10,000

Conviction can lead to a prison sentence of up to 14 years.

How can we help you?

We have years of experience in defending clients charged with theft and other offences of dishonest including robbery and burglary.  Where necessary, we will aggressively defend our clients against unmerited theft charges.  If you have been accused of theft, or know anyone that has, contact the criminal defence lawyers at Qamar Solicitors immediately for urgent specialist legal advice – whether at the police station or after.

Contact the criminal defence lawyers at Qamar Solicitors for more details