How Satisfactory Is The Current Law On The Deception Offences?

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Anthony Day

In Your View, How Satisfactory Is The Current Law On The Deception Offences?

There have been problems with the law on deception. However the Theft Act was passed to clarify the law and to fill in some of the gaps the current law seems to be complex and confused. Some parts of the act, there was parts so obscure and difficult to use that just 4 years after the Act was passed, the CLRC was asked to look at amending it. There were also gaps in the coverage of the Act. The 1978 legislation was passed to remedy both problems, repealing the troublesome part of section 16 and creating the new deception offences of obtaining services by deception, making off without payment and evasion of liability by deception.

Recently problems with the legislation have been highlighted by the House of Lords judgement in R v Preddy. While some of the difficulties arising from the case have been dealt with by the Theft Amendment Act, some problems still remain and the Theft Acts still fall short of the high hopes that were held for them. There were now twice the number of problems of interpretation and application, so it would seem that instead of getting better at reforming this area, the law on deception is still as complex and unsatisfactory than ever before.

The term deception in itself is defined quite broadly because it includes deception by words of conduct which can be as to fact or law or the present intentions of the deceiver. The deception can be made deliberately or recklessly.

A gap in the law regarding deception could be seen to be the fact that silence can be counted as a deception. Silence is not included in the definition of deception and so the courts have only been able to impose liability for silence where it can be considered as conduct. There are two different cases which are prominent in this instance. In DPP v Ray the courts stretched the law to include silence where the defendant had changed his mind about paying. This appears to give an unjustified meaning to deception. This case was in 1973, before the passing of the 1978 Act which created the offence of making off with out payment. Ray could now be charged with making off without payment and there would be no need to distort the law on deception.

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In Firth however which occurred in 1990 after the passing of the 1978 Act the courts came to the conclusion that where there was a duty to disclose information then a failure to do that was conduct and came with within the meaning of deception. The decision in this case is more justifiable than DPP vs. Ray.

The deception must be the operative cause of the obtaining of property, and this is a question of fact for the jury to decide, requiring proof that the victim would not have acted in the same way had he or she known the truth. ...

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