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Theft Notes

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This is an extract of our Theft document, which we sell as part of our Criminal Law Notes collection written by the top tier of Oxford students.

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THEFT S.1(1) of the Theft Act 1968, the actus reus is: i. there must be property ii. belonging to another iii. which D appropriates. Property Chose-in-action - not a physical thing but can be vindicated by legal action e.g. debt; shares; copyright; trademark. Information is not capable of being stolen e.g. Oxford v Moss [1978] D copied an exam; not theft, as the university had not been deprived of any property. Area on information is ripe for reform; needs legislative action. Services cannot be stolen e.g. riding on a train: this would be obtaining services dishonestly under s.11 of the Fraud Act 2006.

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Kohn [1979] D, director of company C, which had an account with bank B. D had signing authority on C's account and he dishonestly drew cheques on that account for personal reasons, thereby causing C's account with B to be debited. He was convicted for theft, as he had stolen C's chose-in-action for the amount to which the account had been debited. Body parts? Held in Kelly [1998] that a body if embalmed can be stolen from the executors, also held in Yearworth v North Bristol NHS Trust
[2009] that frozen sperm if allowed to perish constituted property. Electricity and heat cannot be stolen, but gas can, as can water if put in a container e.g. pipe Land cannot be stolen unless some part of it is severed and then removed; or if a tenant appropriates a fixture let to be used with the land that belongs to the owner. A person who picks mushrooms/wild flowers/fruit/foliage from any plant growing wild does not steal what he picks up, unless he does so for commerical purposes.

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9 Belonging to another All proprietary interests are protected, e.g. a lien - a right to retain possession of something until the owner has met some condition e.g. Cox [1923] D took his car back from a garage who had a lien over it and was convicted of theft. If there are two owners and one of the dishonestly sells it, he is guilty of theft. Appropriation D appropriates when he does anything in connection with the thing that only an owner has the right to exclude others from doing e.g. destroying/touching/giving it to another/offering it for sale.

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At one point, the HoL favoured the qualification that the assumption of owner's rights had to be unauthorised/wrongful e.g. Morris [1984] D took goods from shelves of a supermarket. He replaced the price labels with labels showing lower prices, he was arrested after buying the goods and convicted of theft. HoL upheld this conviction because he appropriated the goods when he switched the labels, which was unauthorised by the supermarket. However, Lord Roskill's judgement was inconsistent with the earlier decision of Lawrence v MPC [1972] where D, a taxi-driver, had lied about the cost of a journey and taken money from a foreign student's purse. Even though V allowed D to take the money, his conviction for theft was upheld.

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The conflict between Morris and Lawrence has since been resolved by Gomez [1993] where Lawrence was affirmed. D, the assistant manager of a shop, had formed a plan with R to acquire goods in exchange for two stolen cheques. Knowing the cheques were stolen, D deceived the shop manager into authorising the cheques for the sale of goods. HoL upheld the conviction for theft. This now means that appropriation is not limited to unauthorised or wrongful appropriations but also those made with the consent of the owner.

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