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R v Rostron [2003] All ER (D) 269

Theft of golf balls belonging to a golf club despite being abandoned by the original owners

Facts

The defendants (R and C) was charged and convicted with stealing golf balls from a stretch of water at a golf course.

Issue

Both R and C appealed against their conviction. They argued that the golf balls were abandoned by their original owners and, thus, removal of them could not amount to theft. Section 1 of the Theft Act 1968 requires it to be proven that the property in question “belongs to another.” They also argued that the trial judge gave insufficient regard to the necessary mental element of the crime of theft.

Held

The Court held that even though the golf balls had been abandoned by their original owners, it was clear that the golf club itself had the control of lost balls for their own purposes and, as such, the golf balls were the club’s property in terms of the 1968 Act. Furthermore, the trial judge had not given insufficient regard to the necessary mental element of the crime of theft. The trial judge had given a clear direction that the prosecution had to prove that the defendants knew they were not allowed to go on to the golf course and remove the balls. If this was established, then the necessary element of dishonesty had been proven. And, in the circumstances, it was difficult to see how R and C could genuinely have believed that the golf balls had been abandoned.


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