R v Turner (No 2) [1971] 1 WLR 901

Theft of a car which was in the possession and control of a garage

Facts

The Defendant (T) took his car to a garage for repairs. The repairs were completed by the garage and the car was left outside the garage on the road. T called the garage and told the proprietor that he would return the following day, pay him and take the car: instead, he took the car away from the roadside several hours later without paying for the repairs.

Issue

T was charged with theft of the car contrary to section 1 of the Theft Act 1968. He submitted that, in terms of section 5(1) of the 1968 Act, the car did not “belong” to the proprietor of the garage and the appropriation of the car by him was not dishonest within the meaning of section 2(1)(a) of the 1968 Act.

Held

The Court of Appeal dismissed T’s appeal. The Court held that property belonged to a person if at the time of the appropriation that person was in fact in possession or control of it. The words “possession or control” in section 5(1) of the 1968 Act did not require to be qualified in any way i.e. the person from whom the property is taken must, in fact, be in possession or control and any question of legal possession or control, for instance through a hire purchase agreement, was irrelevant. Secondly, the Court of Appeal confirmed that the trial jury had been properly directed that it was essential for the prosecution to show that T had acted dishonestly and his ill-founded belief that he had a lawful claim of right to take the car in the circumstances was immaterial.