Theft Solicitors & Criminal Defence Lawyers

Have you been accused of theft? Before taking part in a police interview, it is crucial that you seek specialist legal advice.

At Lawtons, we have expertise and wide-ranging experience in theft cases. Call us today on 0333 577 0522 and we can help to achieve the best possible outcome in your case.

What is theft?

Under UK law, theft is one of three ‘dishonesty offences’. It relates to the dishonest taking of property belonging to another, with the sole purpose of permanently depriving the other person of that property.

Theft can be from one person, from a shop – known as shoplifting – or an employer. Identity fraud is also classified as theft under UK law.

Any act of theft is in contravention of the Theft Act 1968 and the Theft Act 1978.

How is theft proved in court?

To  prove an act of theft has taken place, the prosecution in the case must illustrate five key elements:

  • Dishonesty
  • Appropriation
  • The involvement of an item of property
  • That the property belongs to another
  • The intention to permanently deprive the owner of the property

If any of these points cannot be proven then the case is unlikely to succeed and the defendant is entitled to be acquitted and found not guilty

Similar to burglary, theft is classified as an ‘either way’ offence, meaning it can be heard in either the magistrates’ court or the Crown Court. A case is likely to be referred to the Crown Court if the value of the goods stolen is high or if the burglary is of a house or dwelling where people live or sleep, such as a hotel room.

What should you do if you have been accused of theft?

If you have been accused of theft you should seek the advice of a specialist solicitor as soon as you can. An expert legal representative can advise you on the best lines of defence in your own case.

The team at Lawtons can represent you at the police station or in court. Whether your case relates to theft from an employer, theft from a vehicle or identity theft, we are here to help, no matter how minor or major the accusation of theft might be. Get in touch for expert advice and assistance – call us on 0333 577 0522.

What other offences are classified under the Theft Acts?

Some offences covered by UK theft legislation are simple to understand, such as theft, theft from an employer, robbery and burglary

Others are not quite so straightforward. Conspiracy to steal, for instance, involves a more organised approach to theft, where multiple offenders are involved. Handling stolen goods is typically the offence of receiving goods which you knew were stolen, or disposing of them or selling them. While false accounting involves destroying, defacing, concealing or falsifying accounting records to gain some advantage or cause a loss to another.

Identity theft

Identity theft (or identity fraud) involves stealing someone’s identity and impersonating them to benefit yourself and/or cause a loss to the individual whose identity has been stolen.

Sometimes the victim’s identity is used to apply for new products, such as credit cards, loans, mobile phone contracts or bank accounts. The offender might also claim benefits in the victim’s name, seek to access their bank accounts or try to obtain documents like passports or driving licences using their victim’s identity.

Vehicle theft

The theft of cars and other vehicles is one of the most common crimes committed in the UK. According to Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) data, police reported 48,400 vehicles as being stolen in 2021.

What are the defences to theft charges?

There are various defences to theft available, but you’ll need specialist theft solicitors to thoroughly examine all the evidence to determine which are most applicable to your case.

The simplest defence is that the accusations are a case of mistaken identity and you weren’t involved in the crime at all. CCTV footage, witness testimony, phone records and DNA samples can help your cause in these circumstances.

If you did take part in the theft, you could appeal for leniency on the basis that the theft caused little harm to the victim, or it might be that you didn’t intend to permanently deprive them of the item stolen.

Perhaps you only played a small role in the theft or only participated under coercion or threat of violence. Sometimes, vulnerable people commit the crime of theft, having been exploited by others.

Whatever the applicable approach, you need an experienced lawyer for theft defences that can convince a court of your innocence or reduced culpability.

What factors determine the sentence for theft? 

Sentencing guidelines for theft focus on the defendant’s degree of culpability and the level of harm suffered by the victim.

The highest degree of culpability is reserved for those who play a leading role in the crime, coerce others into taking part or threaten violence against the victim. If the victim is a vulnerable person or has been targeted by someone in a position of trust, that also constitutes a high level of culpability.

Those offenders who are deemed to be least culpable are those who took no part in planning the offence, didn’t fully understand what they were doing or performed a very limited role in the crime. Or maybe they were forced into participating.

In terms of damage caused to the victim, the following factors determine a sentence for theft:

  • The non-monetary value of items to the victim
  • Financial harm
  • Emotional distress
  • Injuries suffered or risk of injury feared
  • Damage to property or risk of damage feared

What is the sentence for identity theft in the UK? 

While there are no specific identity theft sentence guidelines in the UK, these offences tend to be treated seriously because of the effects on the victims and the degree of culpability involved. Identity theft always requires planning, particularly if it’s a detailed plot that combines various aspects of the victim’s identity.

Sentences for those convicted usually fall between two and seven years in prison. If no fraud has taken place, but the accused nonetheless possesses materials that could be used in identity fraud, the minimum sentence would be a community sentence, although custodial sentences are also a possibility.

Due to the serious nature of the possible sentences, it’s always vital to consult specialist identity theft solicitors as soon as accusations come to light. 

Why choose Lawtons lawyers to manage your defences to theft?

We have years of experience in representing people accused of theft, choosing the right defence and carefully identifying flaws in the prosecution’s case. As a result, we can guide you through the whole legal process, mindful of the impact of charges on your personal and professional life.

We concentrate on criminal law, where our skills and knowledge lie, rather than trying to expand into other areas of the law. Our reputation for excellence has seen us independently recognised as a leading criminal law firm by both The Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners.

If you’re facing charges related to any kind of theft, you should have expert legal representation from the very beginning. Don’t hesitate to get in touch today or call us on 0333 577 0522 to enlist the help of an expert theft crime lawyer.

FAQs about Theft

Is shoplifting a separate offence from theft?

Shoplifting is one of three forms of theft (the others being theft from one person or from an employer) and is therefore treated the same under the Theft Act. Identity theft and vehicle theft are also classified under the same offence.

What is the penalty for theft?

The maximum sentence for theft in the UK is 14 years’ imprisonment. This will depend on a number of factors such as the value of the goods stolen.