Obtaining Property By Deception Cases

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Last modified: 07/03/18 Author: In-house law team

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DPP v Ray [1974] AC 370

The defendant had ordered a meal in a restaurant and had consumed it with an

honest state of mind. He then discovered that he was unable to pay for the meal

and remained silent as to his change in circumstances. The defendant waited

until the dining area was clear of waiters before running out. The defendant was

convicted under s16(2)(a) of the Theft Act 1968 (now replaced by the Theft Act


The House of Lords held that the defendant had exercised a deception by

remaining seated in the restaurant having decided not to pay. His remaining in

this position created the implied and continuing representation that he was an

honest customer who intended to pay the bill, thus inducing the waiters to leave

the dining area unattended, giving him the opportunity to run off without


R v Collis-Smith [1971] Crim LR 716

The defendant had put petrol into his car and then falsely told the attendant

that his employer would be paying for the petrol. The defendant’s appeal against

conviction under s15 was successful in the Court of Appeal on the basis that his

deception did not arise until after the property in the petrol had passed to

him. (Note: today, the appropriate charge in such a case would be an offence

under s2 Theft Act 1978.)

R v Coady [1996] Crim LR 518

The Court of Appeal quashed the defendant’s conviction for obtaining petrol

at a self-service station by the deception that he was authorised to charge the

petrol to the account of his former employer, which he was no longer entitled to

do. The fatal flaw in the prosecution case was that it was clear that the

defendant had informed the cashier that the petrol should be charged to the

account only after he had got the petrol.

The court was sceptical about the wider representation that when the

defendant drove onto the forecourt he represented an intention to pay which he

did not in fact possess. This was alleged to be inconsistent with the

indistinguishable case of Collis-Smith (1971).

MPC v Charles [1977] AC 177

The defendant had drawn cheques on his account, supported by his cheque

guarantee card, in order to buy gaming chips at a casino. The manager of the

casino had given evidence that questions of creditworthiness did not arise where

a valid cheque guarantee card was proffered.

Nevertheless, the House of Lords affirmed the defendant’s conviction under

s16(2)(b) of obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception. The House of Lords

accepted that use of a cheque and a cheque card implied authority to do so, and

that it was to be assumed that the casino would not have accepted the cheques as

supported by the guarantee card, had the truth been known, ie that the defendant

had exceeded his authorised limit.

R v Lambie [1982] AC 449

The defendant used her own credit card knowing that authorisation had been

withdrawn. She was convicted of obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception

from her bank under s16(2)(b).

The conviction was upheld by the House of Lords on the basis that if the shop

assistant had known the truth she would not have accepted the credit card in

payment, hence the use of the card was an operative deception. The defendant

could of course, call the retailer to give evidence that she was quite happy to

accept the credit card in full knowledge of the defendant’s lack of authority,

but the retailer is unlikely to want to run the risk of becoming an accomplice

to the defendant’s fraud on the credit card company.

R v Goodwin [1996] Crim LR 262

The Court of Appeal held that the defendant had rightly been convicted of

going equipped for theft (contrary to s25 Theft Act 1968) when the evidence

showed that he had used Kenyan 5 shilling coins (coins of the same size, shape

and weight as 50p coins but of about half the value) to play gaming machines in

an amusement arcade. The defendant knew full well that he was trying to obtain

the prize coins in a way which he knew would not have the machine owner’s


R v Ghosh [1982] QB 1053

The defendant was a consultant at a hospital. He falsely claimed fees in

respect of an operation that he had not carried out. He claimed that he thought

he was not dishonest by his standards because the same amount of money was

legitimately payable to him for consultation fees. The defendant’s conviction

under s15 was affirmed by the Court of Appeal.

(See Handout on Theft.) On the basis of the court’s decision, the jury,

applying their own standards, must judge the defendant’s actions and beliefs and

decide whether he was honest or dishonest. If the jury find that according to

their standards he was dishonest, they must then establish whether the defendant

knew that ordinary people would regard such conduct as dishonest.


R v Clarke [1996] Crim LR 824

The defendant, a private investigator, allegedly told V (a group of people

who had been defrauded) that he was a former fraud squad officer and a court

bailiff. In consequence, he was engaged to trace funds belonging to them.

Initially, D maintained not only that he did not make the representations but

also that he was not dishonest since he believed he could do the work, intended

to do so, and eventually did so. He changed his plea to guilty after the judge

indicated that he considered the offence committed if D made the

representations, they were false and that V engaged him as a result of those


The Court of Appeal allowed the appeal and quashed the conviction. The

judge’s indication inevitable implied that it was necessarily dishonest to tell

lies to obtain employment, no matter what D’s explanation for the lies or more

general explanation for his conduct. This was unduly restrictive and the jury

should have been given the opportunity to consider the issues.

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