Appropriation within the Theft Act 1968: Part I

Date01 August 1984
AuthorL. M. Clements
Publication Date01 August 1984
DOI10.1177/002201838404800309
SubjectArticle
APPROPRIATION
WITHIN
THE
THEFT
ACT
1968:
PART
I
L. M. Clements*
Perhaps even more than the element of dishonesty in the definition
of theft, the concept of
"appropriation"
has caused the courts
difficulty of interpretation. This has mainly been due to the partial
definition of
"appropriation"
in section 3(1) of the Theft Act 1968,
which reads:
"Any
assumption by a person of the rights of an owner
amounts to an appropriation, and this includes, where he has
come by the property (innocently or not) without stealing it,
any laterassumption of a right to itby keeping or dealing with it
as owner."
Many questions have been raised concerning this section, cul-
minating in a common-sense interpretation of it by the House of
Lords in the recent case of R. v. Morris.' This article will review the
case law and academic discussion on the subject of appropriation in
the light of this case.
According to the Criminal Law Revision Committee" it was
hoped: "
...
that the concept of 'dishonest appropriation' will be
easily understood even without the aid of further definition."! The
notion of
"appropriation"
was intended by the Committee to
correspond to the former offences of fraudulent conversion, larceny
and embezzlement.
The
Committee chose
"appropriation"
in
substitution for "fraudulently converts" because the latter, being a
lawyer's word, required legal expertise for its understanding.
It
is
clear from the Committee's
Report
that the section 3(1) definition
was intended to "covercases of dishonest retention or disposal after
an innocent acquisition". Whether it was also intended to cover
cases
other
than asubsequent disposal or keeping, such as doing
something to property innocently acquired, is
not
clear. But it was
B.A.• LL.M .• Lecturer in Law. University of Hull.
1.
[1983)3
All E.R. 288; 48 J.C.L. 59.
2. "Theft and Related Offences" 8th Report. Cmnd. 2977 (1966-67).
3. 8th Report. paras. 30-37. Cmnd. 2977 at para. 34.
293

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