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What is the legal definition of theft?

Under the Theft Act 1968, theft is defined, in section 1, as dishonestly appropriating property belonging to another with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it.

There are lots of different ways of stealing and many offences, each with a Section under the Theft Act, incorporate theft or stealing as one of their elements.  Here are some examples:

  • Robbery – Section 8 – is when the person steals and immediately before or at the time of doing so and in order to do so, uses force on any person or puts or seeks to put any person in fear of being then and there subjected to force.
  • Burglary – Sections 9 and 10 – is entering a building or part of a building as a trespasser with intent to commit theft, grievous bodily harm or criminal damage; or having entered as a trespasser, stealing or inflicting/attempting to inflict grievous bodily harm.
  • Aggravated burglary – Section 10 – is where, when a burglary is committed, the burglar has with him any firearm or imitation firearm, any weapon of offence, or any explosive.
  • Handling stolen goods – Section 22 – is receiving stolen goods; or being involved in their retention, removal or realisation by another person or for the benefit of another person; or arranging to do so.
  • Going equipped to steal or commit burglary with intent to steal – Section 25 – is when, not at his place of abode, a person has with him any article for use in the course of or in connection with any burglary or theft. This could be gloves, tools, socks, footwear. In many investigations of serial burglars they have their houses turned upside down, floorboards taken up and attics gone through with a fine tooth comb to find the hidden tools of their trade. This isn’t evidence of ‘going equipped’ but serial burglars keep their ‘tools’ hidden for fear of them yielding forensic evidence when they are arrested.
  • Taking without consent (‘TWOC’- twocking is the slang) – Section 12(1) – is the offence of taking any conveyance (apart from a pedal cycle) to use without having the consent of the owner or other lawful authority. In other words joyriding.

There are lots of other offences, which you can see on the CPS website. There is a mine of information about theft and all other crimes. You can use the CPS website to identify what crimes you have suffered, their names, what they involve and how they can be proved.

How to gather evidence if it happens to you

Unfortunately, you cannot rely on the police to investigate a crime you have suffered. Hope for the best but they are busy and will often prioritise other matters.  So always be prepared to pursue the issue with them from the start. That means always keep records to help you build your case. And before you start you must do your homework. To be effective you need a reasonable knowledge of your rights and responsibilities. If you are going to stand up for yourself you need to make a plan and be able to follow it through.

Here’s what to do if you find your problem is not being addressed by the police:

  1. Be clear and explicit when identifying and describing your situation

Describe what has happened such as “my car has been stolen and it’s been found damaged in a street nearby, where there’s CCTV, which the police aren’t looking at”, or “ one or more of my employees is stealing some of the electrical equipment we make in our factory but the police say they haven’t time to try to find out who it is”, or “my house was burgled when I was out. I have CCTV of the thief and the car he was driving but the police are refusing to do anything”.

Make sure you are describing what is happening, or has happened, not what you are feeling about what’s happened.  Nor should you be describing the consequences of what’s happened or the cost of what’s happened or how you want to stop what’s happened. Just the facts of what’s happened that is the cause of your troubles.

  1. Inform yourself by using the internet

Once you can describe the problem you can search the internet to find out more. Most importantly, go to trusted websites like:

  • The CPS
  • Citizens Advice – which is good for a wide range of problems
  • ACAS – has an excellent website if it’s an employment problem. It doesn’t matter if you’re an employer or an employee, they help everyone and it’s free.

Charities dealing with particular problems can also be excellent, such as:

You’ll feel much more confident if you understand how others define the kind of problem you have and how it can be resolved.

  1. Work out what you can do.

These first steps should enable you to start to work out what you need to do. Your research will help you understand how your problem is defined legally and from that definition you can work out what evidence would be needed to make your case. You will know what you need to prove to make your case and where to go to get it resolved

  1. Start making records

As soon as you’re familiar with what you need to prove, start to make records of the problem. Use ONRECORD which is designed for this purpose and will help you to create a record of what has happened with all the key information included. Sign up today for our evidence gathering tools.