A more recent version of these Property Offences notes – written by Oxford students – is available here.
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THEFT Theft used to be called larceny - taking and carrying away. Abolished in 1968 under the first Theft Act. Other offences were built around the offence of larceny and it was generally a mess. The government accepted a new codified law of theft more or less exactly as suggested by the time's equivalent of the law commission. Note: s.3(2) Theft Act establishes that where someone buys property in good faith that turns out to be stolen, they will not be guilty of theft. Section 1: Theft = dishonest appropriation of property belonging to another, with the intention of permanently depriving the other of their property. It is irrelevant if it if with a view to gain or not. Actus reus 'Property' Defined in section 4. Includes money and all things tangible as well as thing in action and other intangible property. 'Thing in action' - something that is not tangible but enforceable in a court e.g. a debt You cannot steal land (except in 3 exception cases detailed in the Act). Why? Probably because the law commission didn't want to be seen to be going too far. The law of larceny was limited to chattels because it is difficult to take and carry away land. It seemed inconceivable that you could ever steal land, but appropriation of land is perfectly plausible. Another conservative reaction by the draftsmen was to not have poaching be theft, instead building other provisions in - s.4(4). Dishonestly extracting someone's electricity is also theft, but the courts have been reluctant. Information: Not regarded as property for the purposes of theft. Oxford v Moss - Student took an exam paper, copied the questions and then returned it. Prosecuted for theft but it was thrown out on the basis that information could not be stolen. Also difficult to fulfil elements of the offence - how do you permanently deprive someone of something they know?
Bank accounts count - because it is either a debt of the bank's or of the account's owner.
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