Published: Wed, 07 Mar 2018
Davidge v Bennett  Crim LR 297
Obligation to deal with property belonging to another only for specified purposes
The Defendant (D) received cheques from her three flatmates in order to pay for the communal gas bill. Instead, D spent the money on Christmas presents and left the flat without paying the gas bill.
One of the components of the actus reus of the crime of theft, as defined in section 5 of the Theft Act 1968, is that the property in question must belong to another. The key issue in this case was whether D was under an obligation to deal with the property of her flatmates in a particular way (i.e. to pay the gas bill) in terms of section 5(3) of the 1968 Act.
D’s appeal against conviction was dismissed. It was held that she had stolen the money entrusted to her by her flatmates to pay the gas bill. The cheques were property belonging to another (D’s flatmates) in terms of section 5(3) of the Theft Act 1968. Accordingly, D was required to apply the cheques to the discharge of the gas bill. Although D didn’t have her own bank account, if she did then she would have been entitled to pay the cheques into her own bank account and pay the bill with her own cheque. In such circumstances, her obligation would have been to pay the bill within a reasonable time. In any case, given the circumstances in which she obtained the cheques she was under an obligation to apply them pro tanto to the discharge of the bill.
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