The Offence of Theft under the 1968 Theft Act should have been straightforward. Unfortunately, the courts have interpreted it to become illogical and confusing. Discuss

Essay by btacharyaUniversity, Bachelor'sB, November 2004

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A semi optimistic article was published just prior to the Theft Act 1968 in the Modern Law Review, regarding the overhaul of the then law of theft, identifying some of the grass-roots problems instigating the major reconsideration (1):

·Making the law easier to understand

·Reducing complexity and uncertainty

·To focus on ownership rights and not possessory rights

·To overcome a myriad of inconsistencies under the then current law

·To repeal a large amount of obsolete and redundant statutory and common law offences

·Reduce the number of offences through new concepts and redefinitions

·Expanding the ambit of some offences

The Theft Act 1968 replaced the Larceny Act 1916, to come into force on Jan 1 1969 as an embodiment of the recommendations of the CLRC's report on "Theft and Related Offences" (2). Commentaries of possible interpretations by respected authors followed (3) as well as scathing remarks reflecting the general morale of the critics regarding the overall performance of the new act:

·"The …Act is no masterpiece…" (4)

·"The law (is) purged with medieval obfuscation….and

(is) a depressing exercise" (5)

·"rather haphazard development of important doctrines in the law of theft" (6)

Professor Smith expressed his excitement regarding new challenges (7), and also vented his frustration through angry remarks at the illogical decisions such as Hinks (8).


1. R. Stuart, "law Reform and the Reform of the Law of theft", Modern Law Rev (1967) p609

2. CMnd 2977; J.K. Macleod, "Restitution under the Theft Act 1968", CLR (1968) p577

3. J.M. Collins, "The Theft Act and its Commentators" CLR (1968) p638

4. J.M. Collins, "The Theft Act and its Commentators" CLR (1968) p638 at 647

5. D.W. Elliott, "Dishonesty under the Theft Act" (1972) CLR p625

6. L. Koffman, 'The Nature of Appropriation', CLR (1982) p33

7. J.C. Smith,