What are the Principles of criminal liability?
1.The facts of the case are that the defendant (Morris) went into a self-service store in which he picked some articles (items) from the shelves. He then swapped the price tags of those items with lower ones. The defendant then carried the items to the till where he presented the articles and paid the lower (unreal) price for them. He was apprehended and convicted of theft by means of appropriation contrary to section 1(1) of the Theft Act 1968 and was fined ˆ50 for each count of theft in which the payment period must not exceed 3 months. The defendant appealed against the ruling of the Crown court on the assertion that the jury was misguided to hold that the substitution of price tickets or tags of articles with lower ones by the appellant as appropriation under section 3(1) of the Theft Act 1968. Secondly, as to the question of what appropriation really meant in the theft act and implications of switching price labels of goods in a self service shop. The Court of Appeal confirmed that the decision of the Crown Court was right and the appeal was dismissed. When it got to the House of Lords, it was still refused.
2.The original decision was that the defendant was convicted in the Crown court for theft contrary to section 1(1) of the Theft Act 1968 which says that ‘A person is guilty of theft if he dishonestly appropriates property belonging to another with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it; and “thief” and “steal” shall be construed accordingly’. He was fined ˆ100 for two counts of theft (ˆ50 for each count) in which he was to complete the payments within a period not exceeding 3 months or face a jail sentence of 74 days for each count of theft upon failure to pay the fines.
3. The jury was instructed by the judge that the defendant was guilty of theft by appropriation under Section 3(1) of the Theft Act 1968 if it was established that he switched the prices of the articles in the self-service shop. He was found guilty and convicted. The defendant appealed on the grounds that the jury was misguided by the judge that the switching of price tags of articles in the shop by him was appropriation according to section 3(1) of the 1968 Theft Act. Secondly, the defendant appealed against the conviction to query the real meaning of appropriation according to the Theft Act 1968 and the implication of swapping labels or price tickets on articles in a shop in order purchase at a lower price.
4.The case was first heard in the Crown Court where the defendant was convicted and fined ˆ100. The defendant later appealed in the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) where the appellant (Morris) claimed that the assistant recorder (Judge) misguided the jury by directing them to see the swapping of price ticket or tag of articles by the appellant as appropriation under Section 3(1) of the Theft Act 1968. The decision was upheld in the Court of Appeal and his appeal was dismissed. The appellant then took it to the House of Lords (which was then the final court of appeal).
5.The final outcome of the appeals was that they were all dismissed. The defendant had first appealed against the decision of the Crown court in the Court of Appeal. The appeal was based on the claim that the judge misled the jury by directing them to see the switching of price tickets of articles by the appellant as appropriation under Section 3(1) of the Theft Act 1968. Also, the appellant appealed against his conviction to inquire on what appropriation really denotes according to the Theft Act 1968 and the implication of swapping labels of articles or goods in a shop in order to cheat the owner. But the appeal was not allowed. The Court of Appeal established that the direction by the Judge in the Crown court was valid and that the prosecution ought not to prove that the appellant assumed all the rights of the owner; but it is sufficient if the appellant assumed any of the rights of the owner claiming an article as his. In the present case, by taking the articles from the shelves, the appellant had appropriated and replacing the price tickets with lower ones meant that he was claiming one of the rights of the owner. The appellant was still found guilty of theft by appropriation and the appeal was still dismissed by the Court of Appeal. The appellant requested for leave to appeal to the House of Lords but was denied by the Court of Appeal. The application for leave to appeal was later granted to the appellant by the Appeals Committee of the House of Lords but the leave to appeal was denied; and the appeal was finally dismissed.
‘A person is guilty of theft if he dishonestly appropriates property belonging to another with the intention of permanently depriving the other from it’. The elements of theft in the above definition can be classified under the actus reus and men rea. The actus reus elements are appropriation, property, and belonging to another. While the means rea elements are dishonesty and intention to permanently deprive.
APPROPRIATION- This is defined in Section 3(1) of the Theft Act 1968 as ‘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 later assumption of a right to it by keeping or dealing with it as owner’. There is no prerequisite that all the rights of the owner must be assumed, but any of the rights is sufficient. In Morris (1983), the defendant entered a self-service store where he picked some items from the shelves. He then swapped the price tickets of those items with lower ones. The defendant then carried the items to the till where he presented the articles and paid the lower price for them. He was apprehended and convicted of theft by means of appropriation contrary to section 3(1) of the Theft Act 1968. It was held that the appropriation took place at the point of the labels, which was one of the rights of the owner.
PROPERTY- In order to establish liability, one must prove that the defendant appropriated a ‘property’. Section 4(1)of the theft act defines property in terms of cash, real or private, intangible and things in action like patent rights, debt, etc. that can be legally enforceable. Intangible property has no physical existence. However, private information does not amount to intangible property in the context of s 4(1). In Oxford v Moss a University student took a copy of an exam paper which he read and returned after using the information to cheat in the exam. It was held that confidential information could not amount to an intangible property under s 4(1) of the Theft Act 1968. Therefore, it can’t be stolen.
BELONGING TO ANOTHER- Section 5(1)of the act specifies that property will be deemed belonging to anybody in possession or ‘control of it’. Ironically this means that one could be criminally responsible for theft of their properties if it is in someone’s possession. In Turner (1971) the defendant brought his car to a garage to be repaired. The job was completed but He used his spare key to take the car from the garage without paying. Turner was found guilty of stealing his own car since he intended to ‘permanently deprive’ the present possessor of his car.
DISHONESTY- This was not really defined by the act. Section 2(1) just describes situations where a person is not considered as being dishonest, that is, if he has justification to deny the other person of his property and trusts the other party will approve of that. In Ghosh (1982) the Court of Appeal established a two-stage test for dishonesty which encompasses both objective and subjective elements. The jury ought to answer these questions: Has the defendant been dishonest by the ordinary standards of reasonable and honest people (objective test)If the answer is yes, did the defendant realise that he or she was dishonest by those standards (subjective test)If the answer is yes to the second question, there is dishonesty. The accused acts were dishonest and he realised it. The appeal was dismissed and conviction upheld.
INTENTION TO PERMANENTLY DEPRIVE- Under Section 6(1)of the Act, a person is regarded as having the required intention if he/she treats property as his/her own irrespective of the owner’s rights. In Lavender (1994), the defendant removed two doors from a council property which he used replace damaged doors in his girlfriend’s house which owned by the same council. It was held that Lavender had the intention to permanently deprive under section 6(1) as he treated the doors as his own to dispose of irrespective of the rights of the owners.
BIBLIOGRAPHY-BOOKS, JOURNALS, AND STATUTES.
(Stefan Fafinski and Emily Finch, 2007. Criminal Law, p. 157, Pearson Education Limited)
The Theft Act 1968 (http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1968/60/enacted )
Westlaw-R v Morris (David)  2 W.L.R. 768,  Q.B. 587(http://login.westlaw.co.uk/maf/wluk/app/document?&src=rl&suppsrguid=ia744d05e000001305bc8fe7a0c5eae54&docguid=I5ABBC1D0E42811DA8FC2A0F0355337E9&hitguid=I5ABB9AC1E42811DA8FC2A0F0355337E9&spos=106&epos=106&td=175&crumb-action=append&context=20&resolvein=true)
Lexis library- R v Morris  2 All ER 448 (http://www.lexisnexis.com/uk/legal/search/runRemoteLink.do?langcountry=GB&linkInfo=F%23GB%23ALLER%23sel2%252%25year%251983%25page%25448%25sel1%251983%25vol%252%25&risb=21_T12097631828&bct=A&service=citation&A=0.8364451140113925)
The Law of Theft (http://www.e-lawresources.co.uk/Theft.php)
Cases on Theft (http://www.lawteacher.net/criminal-law/cases/theft-cases.php)
Power Point Presentation on theft (heolddulaw.wikispaces.com/file/view/13+Theft.ppt)