Theft, Non-fatal Offences, Criminal Law Elements of Proof

Theft says s.1 Theft Act 1968 is the dishonest appropriation of another’s property with the intention to deprive the other of it permanently. The actus-reus of it is in s. 3 ‘appropriation’ (‘any assumption of an owner’s right’) as can be changing price-labels to pay less: R -v- Morris 1983, or such ‘borrowing’ of a season-ticket in a way as makes it of no or little value: R -v- Llyod 1985 (‘property’ being, s.4, all property including money and things in action, but physical things as paper and not abstract things as knowledge copied from it: Oxford -v- Moss 1979, limitedly on wild-growing plants [unless uprooted] and on flowers-fruits-leaves [unless for sale]; ‘belonging to another’ is by another owned or in lawful possession or control of another, e.g. taking without payment from repairer: R -v- Turner 1971). The mens-rea of it is ‘dishonestly’ in s. 2 (defined in terms of: s. 2(1)(a) unless s/he believes it right in law to do so or s. 2(1)(b) that the owner in the circumstances would consent if knew or s. 2(1)(c) that the owner could not by reasonable steps be discovered), regarded as a two-stage test of ordinary standard of reasonable man and knowledge of it: R -v- Feely 1968 & R -v- Gosh 198; also ‘intention to permanently deprive’ as in Lloyd.

The Theft Acts provide also for other offences.

Obtaining property by deception is in s. 15 of the ’68 Act , as theft but ‘by any deception’ -by false words or tricky behaviour: R -v- Bernard 1837 (pretending as business inducing investment & supply of goods) R -v- Gomez 1993 (unentitledly in Salvation Army uniform collecting money).

Obtaining services by deception is s. 1 of the ’78 Act -it is as for property in the earlier Act.

Evading liability in s. 2 of the ’78 Act is the offence of similarly avoiding e.g. debts.

Making off without payment (‘bilking’) is s. 3 of the ’78 Act ~e.g. restaurant -without paying.

Robbery is s. 8 enabling theft by force or such threats, at the time or before, as would put in fear another of there and then being subjected to it ~theft with assault or battery -max.: life.

Burglary in s. 9 is mostly by trespass -by unauthorised entry to or to any part of any building (including caravans & house-boats lived in), s. 9(1)(a) ‘intending to steal or inflict grievous bodily harm or raping any person within it, or doing unlawful damage to it or anything within it as a trespasser,’ s. 9(1)(b) or upon entry as trespasser without such intention doing or attempting so ~it is can be tried by Magistrates -by a Crown Court if involves the intention to rape or cause grievous bodily harm

Taking a conveyance without consent is s. 12, taking, driving or being in, any thing constructed for carrying people by land, water, or air (except pedal cycles) ~it is a summary offence, normally, with max. 6 month imprisonment -unless aggravated by dangerous driving, or damage to it, or accident causing injury or damage (in the Criminal Damage Act 1971 ‘reasonable careful person test’ applies).

> Non-fatal Offences Against the Person

Non-fatal offences against the person are in part common law offences, and in part by statute; and, in order of seriousness, they are as follows:-

In Smith -v-Chief Superintendent of Woking Police Station 1983 entering a garden at night, by looking through a bedroom window terrifying a woman was an offence under s. 4 Vagrancy Act 1824 ~if intending to assault -words alone are not normally enough.

Assault is causing apprehension of immediate unlawful physical violence intentionally or recklessly -its charged under s.39 Criminal Justice Act 1998. Threats not capable of being carried out do not constitute it.

Battery is the intentional or reckless subjecting of another to unlawful force; and, as in the case of hitting one wit a missile, it need not be coupled by assault. This also is in common-law, charged under s.39 of the Criminal Justice Act 1998.

In both of these offences the mens-rea is intention: R -v- Spratt 1990, or by subjective recklessness: R -v- Savage 1991 was deliberate unreasonable risk taking, and R-v- Parmenter 1991: not if the risk is obvious but if malice was involved. While both the actus-reus and the mens-rea must exit at the same time, the mens-rea can be formed in the course of the actus-reus: Fagan -v- Metropolitan Police Commission 1969 -having accidentally driven car on policeman’s foot, refusing to move car when told had formed it

Satisfactory evidence of consent is a defence: R -v- Donovan 1934 (prostitute beaten by a stick for sexual gratification), if the offence is not a more serious one.

Assault Occasioning Actual Bodily Harm is a s. 47 offence and it is when battery, alone or coupled with common law assault, the statutory ‘assault’ of the Act is so serious that it is likely to interfere with the victim’s health and comfort -without cutting the whole skin, physically such as grazing and concussion: R -v- Roberts 1971, or: R -v- Chan & Fook 1994 as nervous shock in psychiatric terms: R -v- Ireland & R -v- Burstow 1997 (a direct physical attack is not a requirement, also e.g. silent telephone calls may constitute the offence of causing actual bodily harm. Its actus-reus is itself as the consequence by the ‘but for’ test, the objective test; it requires this to be coupled with the mens-rea in the form of intention or subjective recklessness: Roberts (where intentionally or subjectively recklessly there was unlawful force, which objectively occasioned the bodily harm). In Donovan consent was not a defence because actual bodily harm was caused ~the nature and the degree of the injury itself being the decisive factor in whether common assault was the offence involved -to which only it is a defence, or actual bodily harm or greater..

Unlawful Wounding is a s. 20 offence, and it is by any means unlawfully and maliciously wounding or inflicting grievous bodily harm. In the actus-reus the ‘wound’ is other than a broken collarbone: R -v- Wood 1830 or internal bleeding: JJC -v- Eisonhower 1983; it need not be serious. But ‘grievous bodily harm’ must be serious -although not necessarily permanent or life threatening, nor by a direct attack: R -v- Martin 1881. The mens-rea of it is ‘maliciously’ (intention or subjective recklessness) which applied as transferred malice in intended hitting in R -v- Latimer 1886; but in R -v- Parmenter where ‘neither could have intended nor realised injury’, and consent here too was no defence in R -v- Brown & Others 1993.

Wounding with Intent is s. 18, the most serious of the Act’s offences. It is ‘unlawfully and maliciously by any means whatsoever to wound or cause grievous bodily harm… with intent to do some grievous bodily harm.. or to resist or prevent the lawful apprehension or detaining… of any person’; its actus-reus is as for unlawful wounding, but its mens-rea is the intention to commit the crime, and proof of that is required, but it can be reduced to and dealt with as ‘unlawful wounding’ based on subjective recklessness: R -v- Constanza 1996 : it can be stalking and if silent telephone calls cause mental anguish as in R -v- Gelder 1944.

Assault occasioning actual bodily harm and unlawful wounding carry a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment, but wounding with intent carries, as maximum, life imprisonment.

> The General Elements That Must be Proved Before Establishing Criminal Liability

These have to be looked at first, in considering whether any offences may have been committed. Some of these are statute-based and some under common-law, their development having been much affected by such pressures as economic, social, and political. Usually specific are the features of each crime, but there are some common elements.

One is innocent until ad unless found in law not to be -except in strict-liability cases; this requires showing both that a guilty act was done, as well as that it was intentionally done.

Actus-reus is the criminal act: e.g., s. 1 of the Theft Act 1968 ‘dishonest appropriation’; or the criminal omission: e.g., s. 6 Road Traffic Act 1988 ‘fails to provide a specimen’; or a criminal a state of affairs or event: e.g., in Winzar -v- Chief Constable of Kent 1983 the charge of ‘found drunk in the highway’; or the criminal consequence: e.g., s. 47 Offences Against the Person Act 1861 ‘occasioning actual bodily harm’-which is a ‘result crime’ necessitating showing a casual link in fact or in law.

Causation in fact is determined by the ‘but for test’. In R -v- White 1910 the mother’s death having been from natural causes, poisoning her was not the cause, and it not killing.

Causation of law depend on the contribution of the intervening act. R -v- Roberts 1972 injury of jumping out the car was caused by sexual advances made to the woman in the car; in R -v- Pitts 1842 drowning was caused while escaping from an attack; R -v- Lewis 1970 broken leg resulted from escaping threats and attempt of violence; the reasonable act of the victim in seeking to escape being subjected to a crime was the link. Contributory negligence of the victim in R -v- Holland 1841 (self neglect) did not break the link, in R -v- Deer 1996 was still the significant operative in the death -it was killing, a thyroid condition unknown to the accused at the time did not change the ‘egg-shell skull rule’ and one took one’s victim as one found the victim -and R-v- Blaue 1975 (refusal of blood-transfusion on religious grounds) this applies also in respect to the spiritual condition of the victim. The sole cause of death need not be the act or the omission and in R -v- Pagett 1983 the ‘instinctive’ fatal shooting by a policeman of a human-shield was unlawful killing of the accused who had ‘substantially’ caused it; while some reluctance was shown by the courts in treating intervening medical treatment as breaking the link and in R -v- Smith 1959 as much as by 75% reduction of it by that did not break the link, in R -v- Jordan 1956 palpably wrong medical treatment was the direct and the immediate cause of death, from R -v- Cheshire 1991 it is clear that the link can be broken.

Mens-rea is the fault-level of the accused in the act or mission; it is often included in the definition of serious crimes e.g., ‘with malice aforethought’; it is ‘the guilty mind’ by intention, recklessness, or gross-negligence.

Intention, for most serious crimes, has to be specifically shown, by a subjective test deemed by the jury to have been present, R -v- Moloney 1985: in the form of foresight of, R -v- Hancock & Shankland 1986: the probable consequences, wilfully and deliberately carried out ~or in R -v- Nadrick 1988 with virtual certainty of the probable consequences -which may be intention: Scalley 1955.

Recklessness in ss. 47, 20, 23 Offences Against the Person Act 1861 (actual bodily harm, grievous bodily harm, rape) show basic intention; it can be subjective: leaking ripped off gas-meter killed in R -v- Cunningham 1957; or objective: R -v- Caldwell 1981 (arson by drunk) -s1(2) Criminal Damage Act 1971: as to whether life would be endangered.

Negligence can be mens-rea in non-strict-liability offences of e.g. Factories Act 1961 -but only as a last resort; but gross negligence, often, is sufficient mens-rea in homicide cases: Adomako 1994

Strict liability does not require mens-rea e.g. Food & Drugs Act 1995 -in Meah -v- Roberts 1977 of the unfitness of drink for human consumption the accused was innocent yet still guilty ~but in Warner -v- Metropolitan Police Commissioner 1969 (dangerous drugs case) ‘one cannot be in possession the contents of a package when he/she does not know what it is’.

These are an outline as guidelines; laws change, always ascertain current law.

The author has a website at: http://www.geocities.com/eoa_uk

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