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Problems with the Law on Theft

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Introduction

Problems with the law on Theft The offence of theft is described in s1 Theft Act 1968 which states that, "A person is guilty of theft if he dishonestly appropriates property belonging to another with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it". As can be seen by the date of the statute, 1968, it has been in force for a long time, but there have been many criticisms levelled at the current law on theft. Firstly, the range of elements that make up the actus reus have developed some flaws over time. The actus reus of theft requires that the defendant appropriates property belonging to another. The issue of appropriation has raised a major issue over recent years. This being the apparent consent to any appropriation. The first case where this problem featured was in the case of Lawrence. In this case, Lawrence, a cab driver helped himself to an extortionate charge, after the Italian student who got in his cab presented him with his wallet. The Italian student was not familiar with English currency, which is why he asked Lawrence to help himself to the correct fare. ...read more.

Middle

This ruling is then rather contrary to the public perception of what a theft is. Finally under the actus reus is the issue of belonging to another. In the case of Turner (no2), the defendant was held to have stolen his own car. The defendant had used his spare key to take his car from a garage were it was under going repair work. He did so without paying for the repairs. This was held to be an appropriation, as the garage had proprietary right of the car. This was at first problematic as Turner was indeed the legal owner of the car, but s5 states that property is regarded as belonging to any person having possession or control of it. The mens rea has also caused some confusion as to the meanings and implementation of dishonesty and the intention to permanently deprive. These are the two elements which must be satisfied for the defendant to be guilty of theft. The overwhelming concern is the many implications which are caused by the Ghosh Test for dishonesty. ...read more.

Conclusion

This element was questioned in the case of Lloyd, where the defendant copied a film but returned it. He was held not to have this intention as he returned the film in a state where its "goodness and virtue" were still intact. This is despite the fact he had indeed done so dishonestly with the intention to temporarily deprive the other of it. In light of this case, many feel the wording should be changed to "temporary" or this element abolished completely. Another predicament is the "conditional" intent to permanently deprive. This is where the defendant may inspect property to see if it is worth stealing. This is what happened in Easom. Again if the wording were changed then the defendant could have been charged for such behaviour. Allowing this would also make theft consistent with the law on burglary, where conditional intent is sufficient for a conviction. Overall, the law on Theft suffers from many flaws which have developed over the years. As a result I am strongly of the view that the statute is need of reform to make it more comprehensible, consistent and just. ?? ?? ?? ?? - 1 - ...read more.

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