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Theft Act 1968

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Theft Act 1968

Long title
An Act to revise the law of England and Wales as to theft and similar or associated offences, and in connection therewith to make provision as to criminal proceedings by one party to a marriage against the other, and to make certain amendments extending beyond England and Wales in the Post Office Act 1953 and other enactments; and for other purposes connected therewith.

The Theft Act 1968 (c 68) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It creates a number of offences against property in England and Wales. On 15 January 2007 the Fraud Act 2006 came into force, redefining most of the offences of deception.



The Theft Act 1968 resulted from the efforts of the Criminal Law Revision Committee to reform the English law of theft. The Larceny Act 1916 had codified the common law, including larceny itself, but it remained a complex web of offences. The intention of the Theft Act 1968, was to replace the existing law of larceny and other deception-related offences, by a single enactment, creating a more coherent body of principles that would allow the law to evolve to meet new situations.


A number of greatly simplified – or at least less complicated – offences were created.

Section 1 - Basic definition of "theft"

This section creates the offence of theft. This definition is supplemented by sections 2 to 6. The definition of theft under the Theft Act 1968 is ‘A person is guilty of theft if he dishonestly appropriates property belonging to another with intention to permanently deprive the other of it’

Section 2 - "Dishonestly"

This section provides a partial definition of dishonesty for certain purposes.

Section 3 - "Appropriation"

Appropriation is defined as "Any assumption by a person of the rights of an owner".

The courts have interpreted the assumption "of the rights of an owner" to mean that a person assumes at least one of a set of rights rather than having to assume all of the rights of the owners. This interpretation of the legislation was originally given in the case of R v Morris; Anderton v Burnside, and it has been endorsed by the decision in R v Gomez.

Section 4 - "Property"

The definition of property is "any property including money and all other property, real or personal, including things in action and other intangible property"

Section 5 - "Belonging to another"

The definition of belonging to another is "Property shall be regarded as belonging to any person having possession or control of it, or having in it any proprietary right or interest (not being an equitable interest arising only from an agreement to transfer or grant an interest).".

It is possible to have a proprietary right or interest over property that in the ordinary sense belongs to someone else. In the case of R v Turner (No. 2), the Court of Appeal found that a man had committed theft by driving away his car without having paid for repairs made on the car. The garage that repaired his car had a proprietary right over it.

One can have a controlling interest in a piece of property even after selling it. In R v Marshall, a group of defendants resold used tickets for the London Underground. The Court of Appeal dismissed their appeal in part because the tickets said they were the property of London Underground, a condition of sale agreed to by the original buyer of the ticket.

Section 5 includes subsections that deal with possession that has conditions. Section 5(3) deals with situations where a person has given property to another for a particular purpose: the person receiving the property is said to be engaging in theft if they use the property for some purpose it was not intended. If A gives B money to purchase a particular good for A and B buys something else with it without A's consent, even though the property is not in A's hands, A still has a controlling interest in it under Section 5(3).

If one is placed under a duty to use property in a particular way, that obligation must be legal under civil law according to the Court of Appeal in R v. Breaks and Huggan (1998).

There are limits to the legal obligations one is liable for under Section 5(3). In R v. Hall (1972), a customer paid a deposit to a travel agent. The deposit was paid into the company's bank account but the travel agent went out of business. This was not an instance of theft as the money was legitimately paid as a deposit against cancellation and there was no specific obligation to spend the money in a particular way.

Section 5(4) requires that if property is received by mistake it must be returned and failure to do so counts as appropriation. This was seen in action in Attorney-General's Reference (No. 1 of 1983) where a police officer was given £74 extra in her wages but failed to return it or alert her superiors to it. The Court of Appeal held it to be theft.

Section 6 "Intention to permanently deprive"

This section provides that a person in order to be guilty of theft had the intention of permanently depriving the other of the property. In certain cases, the intention to deprive may be construed, even when the person may not have meant to deprive another of their property permanently, for example if the intention is to treat another's property as one's own to dispose of regardless of the other’s rights.

Section 7 - Theft

This section provides that a person convicted of theft on indictment is liable to imprisonment to a term not exceeding seven years.

Section 8 - Robbery

Section 8(1) creates the offence of robbery. Section 8(2) provides that a person convicted on indictment of robbery or assault with intent to rob is liable to imprisonment for life.

Section 9 - Burglary

This section creates the two offences of burglary and provides for penalties for that offence on conviction on indictment.

The two offences can be found in section 9 (1) (a) and in section 9 (1) (b)

Sectin 9 (1)(A) An offence the entry has to be with intent to commit one of the three offences listed and the entry may be by entry of the full body, entry of part of the body or entry by an instrument

For a 9(1)(b) offence the offender does not require intention at the point of entry. An intention to commit the offence is not sufficient for the offence under section 9(1)(b) – a person must have entered as a trespasser and then actually steal (or attempt to steal) or inflict (or attempt to inflict) grievous bodily harm.

Section 10 - Aggravated burglary

Section 10(1) creates the offence of aggravated burglary. Section 10(2) provides that a person guilty of that offence is liable, on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for life.

Section 11 - Removal of articles from places open to the public

This section creates the offence of removing article from place open to the public and provides that a person guilty of that offence is liable, on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years.

Section 12 - Taking motor vehicle or other conveyance without authority

Section 12(1) creates an offence of taking a conveyence other than a pedal cycle without authority.

Section 12(5) creates a separate offence of taking a pedal cycle.

Section 12A - Aggravated vehicle-taking

This section, which was added by the Aggravated Vehicle-Taking Act 1992, creates an offence of aggravated vehicle taking.

Section 13 - Abstracting of electricity

This section creates the offence of abstracting electricity. It replaces section 10 of the Larceny Act 1916.

Section 14

Extension to thefts from mails outside England and Wales, and robbery etc. on such a theft.

Section 15 - Obtaining property by deception

This section was repealed by the Fraud Act 2006. It created the offence of obtaining property by deception and provided a definition of deception for the purpose of that offence and the offences under sections 15A and 16 and 20(2) of this Act and sections 1 and 2 of the Theft Act 1978.

Sections 15A and 15B

These sections were repealed by the Fraud Act 2006. Section 15A created the offence of obtaining a money transfer by deception. Section 15B made supplementary provision.

Section 16 - Obtaining pecuniary advantage by deception

This section was repealed by the Fraud Act 2006. It created the offence of obtaining pecuniary advantage by deception.

Section 17 - False accounting

This section creates an offence of false accounting.

Section 18 - Liability of company officers for certain offenses by company

The words "15, 16 or" in section 18(1) were repealed on 15 January 2007 by Schedule 3 to the Fraud Act 2006.

Section 19 - False statements by company directors etc

This section adds liability for any officer of a corporation or legal entity who publishes false accounts with intent to deceive members or creditors of the body corporate or association about its affairs.

Section 20 - Suppression, etc, of documents

Section 20(2) created the offence of procuring the execution of a valuable security by deception.

Section 20(2) and the words ""deception" has the same meaning as in section 15 of this Act, and" in section 20(3) were repealed on 15 January 2007 by Schedule 3 to the Fraud Act 2006.

Section 21 - Blackmail

This section creates the offence of blackmail.

Section 22 - Handling stolen goods

This section creates the offence of handling stolen goods.

Section 23 - Advertising rewards for return of goods stolen or lost

This section replaces section 102 of the Larceny Act 1861.

A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable, on summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale.

Section 24

Scope of offences relating to stolen goods.

Section 24A - Dishonestly retaining a wrongful credit

This section creates the offence of dishonestly retaining a wrongful credit.

Sections 24A(3) and (4) were repealed on 15 January 2007 by Schedule 3 to the Fraud Act 2006.

Section 25

This section creates an offence of "going equipped" for burglary or theft. It is described by the marginal note to that section as "going equipped for stealing, etc", and by the preceding crossheading as "possession of housebreaking implements, etc". It includes any item that is designed to be used to carry out a theft or burglary, as well as any items made specifically by a thief for use in committing a burglary, etc.

The words ", and "cheat" means an offence under section 15 of this Act" in section 25(5) were repealed on 15 January 2007 by Schedule 3 to the Fraud Act 2006. This was consequential on the repeal of section 15.


Theft Act 1968 Wikipedia

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