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R (on the application of Ricketts) v Basildon Magistrates’ Court

[2010] EWHC 2358; [2011] PTSR 180 

Property belonging to another under the Theft Act 1968.

Facts

The defendant, Ricketts, was arrested after taking bags from outside a charity shop and from the bins at the rear of the shop and putting them into his vehicle. On interview he admitted he was taking them to sell. He was charged with theft under the Theft Act 1968 and was committed by the magistrates to Crown Court. He sought judicial review of this decision in the High Court claiming there was insufficient evidence against him.

Issues

Whether abandoned property could belong to someone else under s.1(1) Theft Act 1968. To commit an offence of theft under s.1(1) and s.5(1) of the 1968 Act the defendant must appropriate property which ‘belonged to another’. The defendant contended that leaving property outside a shop and in bins at the rear of a shop raised an inference that the property had been abandoned and did not belong to another person.

Held

The magistrates had been right to commit the case. The charity shop did not own the property simply because it was left in close proximity to the shop. However, it could be inferred that the donors had left their property outside the shop intending to make a gift of it to the charity shop, and that these donors retained ownership until the gift was effected. Secondly, due to the close proximity of the bins to the shop it was inferred that the property in them was still under the charity’s control and, therefore, belonged to the charity. It was immaterial whether donors had placed the property in the bins or whether the charity had placed it there for disposal.


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