Previous: Mens rea

In 1968, the law of theft and its related offences was overhauled by the Theft Act 1968. Section 1 contains the basic offence of theft, followed by sections defining elements of that offence. Other offences are then added, using some of the same elements: making off (s 3), robbery (s 8), burglary (s 9) and blackmail (s 21). The offence of fraud is dealt with separately in the sections 1-4 of Fraud Act 2006, as is the offence of obtaining services under s 11 of the 2006 Act. collectively, the offences in this paragraph account for about half of all recorded crime.


Section 1(1) of the Theft Act 1968 provides:

“A person is guilty of theft if he dishonestly appropriates property belonging to another with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it; and “thief” and “steal” shall be construed accordingly.”

Under s 1(2), a view to gain is irrelevant.

  • Actus reus: appropriation (s 3) + property (s 4) + belonging to another (s 5)
  • Mens rea: dishonesty (s 2) + intention to permanently deprive (s 6)

According to Gomez [1993], ‘appropriation’ has no mens rea element.

The maximum penalty for a theft conviction is 7 years imprisonment (6 months if tried as a summary offence in the Magistrates’ Court).

Appropriation (s 3)

According to section 3(1), Appropriation is “any assumption…of the rights of an owner…and…any later assumption of a right”. Section 3(2) protects bona fide purchasers from being convicted of theft...

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