Stealing by finding

General cycling advice ( NOT technical ! )
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Re: Stealing by finding

Postby thirdcrank » 27 Nov 2020, 7:38pm

I'll repeat a couple of points I've already made. In connection with theft by finding and indeed criminal offences more generally:- absence of the necessary guilty mind - mens rea is a complete defence. Reporting a find to the police in good faith seems pretty good.

Once upon a time, it was customary not only to report a find to the police but also to hand it in. A lot of that has changed and it's now more usual for the police to "invite" the finder to retain the property. The administration of property in police possession is a nightmare.

There's a separate but related question about the ownership of property which might more accurately be put as "how does somebody acquire a good title to it?"

Once upon another time, this was included in the syllabus for police promotion exams. One gem that sticks in my mind was marché ouvert. This was the medieval equivalent of buying from a car boot sale. A good title could be gained by buying goods in certain markets. I remember that for some now unremembered reason about 30 years ago I mentioned this to an experienced detective and I'm pretty sure he thought I was making it up but didn't like to say so to his immediate supervisor. Not long after that it was finally repealed.

Property also comes into police possession during the investigation of offences. The police or interested parties can commence summary proceedings in a magistrates' court for a decision on ownership under the Police (Property) Act 1897, which also empowers the Home Secretary to make regulations on the subject ... /section/1

If big values are involved, "Interpleader" proceedings can be launched further up the legal ladder

(I see from that there was an Interpleader Act 1831. It doesn't seem to remain on the statute book and I suspect they removed it before I was studying for promotion exams.)

Andy Short
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Re: Stealing by finding

Postby Andy Short » 9 Dec 2020, 8:09pm

I have found two good bikes dumped. Both were probably stolen and hidden for later retrieval.
I contacted the police, the first I took to a station. They said that if unclaimed within 7 weeks, I could collect it.
The second I told them the details but kept it at home for 7 weeks.
I recently found an MTB that was missing bits and a bit tatty. I phoned 101. Report lost property. Option 2, etc.etc.... the options just lead back in a loop so I gave up. I tried their website. Try the council. Phoned the council. Automated options.... if a new bike then register it here. If not, phone XYZ extension to have it collected by waste services. I gave up and kept it.

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Re: Stealing by finding

Postby 6.5_lives_left » 16 Dec 2020, 2:04pm

This is the contents of an email that was sent out by our local neighbourhood watch a while back. I have no idea what policy other police forces have

Thames Valley Police no longer accept bikes that have been found by a member of the public or take reports of lost bikes. If a person has had their bike stolen this needs to be reported online to TVP or by calling 101. A lost or stolen bike needs to be reported with all details and serial numbers online to It is important for all bike owners to register their bikes on this website as, besides helping to get your bike back if stolen and found abandoned, it also helps with finding out your identity if you are involved in an accident on your bike.

TVP have access to search this site so they can check if a stolen bike has been found providing the owner knows the serial number. The finder of a bike can go to this website to check if the bike has been reported stolen and if it has, it needs to be reported to the Police. If the found bike has not been recorded on as lost or stolen, the finder needs to make reasonable attempts to locate the true owner via social media pages such as Lost and Found in our area. Best practice for finders of bikes would be to hold on to them for a period of 4 weeks to give the owner chance to come forward but after this period the finder can decide how to dispose of the bike and would suggest giving to the Community Furniture Project.

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Re: Stealing by finding

Postby mumbojumbo » 16 Dec 2020, 4:15pm

We do not have a local police station-the nearest is 4 miles away.This a city of 600000.Therefore very hard to hand in items found and little incentive to do so.

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Re: Stealing by finding

Postby wrangler_rover » 17 Dec 2020, 2:46pm

Had an incident a few years ago with a mobile phone that I found on the pavement outside my house.
I was setting off early morning, around 6 am and would be away for 2 nights on a business trip.
As I was getting in my car, I noticed a mobile phone on the pavement so I picked up and put it in my car.
At night in the hotel, I switched the phone on and started playing with it, I found a number listed as home so I phoned it.
The phone belonged to a teenager who lives in the same village as me who had told their parents they had lent the phone to a friend. I assured them that I had found the phone on the pavement and had it with me and as I was away, they could get it on my return in 2 days time. They seemed to be a bit put out by this and I was left feeling I wish I hadn't bothered. On my return home, I phoned them and it was collected minutes later.
The episode left a bad taste for me.
I think the next time I find a mobile phone, I will leave it for somebody else to deal with or whatever and save me the trouble.

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Re: Stealing by finding

Postby ossie » 17 Dec 2020, 7:13pm

mumbojumbo wrote:We do not have a local police station-the nearest is 4 miles away.This a city of 600000.Therefore very hard to hand in items found and little incentive to do so.

You ring in and tell them you have it. You are then covered. 4 miles is local as far as police stations are concerned and always has been . :wink:

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Re: Stealing by finding

Postby jimlews » 6 Jan 2021, 6:31pm

If I pull an old discarded bicycle out of a skip, am I a saint (for recycling) or a sinner/thief?

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Re: Stealing by finding

Postby hemo » 6 Jan 2021, 10:29pm

jimlews wrote:If I pull an old discarded bicycle out of a skip, am I a saint (for recycling) or a sinner/thief?

In law a t-leaf as you need the owners permission to remove items.

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Re: Stealing by finding

Postby alexnharvey » 7 Jan 2021, 11:13am

hemo wrote:
jimlews wrote:If I pull an old discarded bicycle out of a skip, am I a saint (for recycling) or a sinner/thief?

In law a t-leaf as you need the owners permission to remove items.

It's not that simple, although it's debatable (and oft debated by internet legal experts like us). Dishonesty is central to the definition of theft ... fences#c12. You cannot 'steal' an item which has been abandoned by the owner. That's really the crux of this whole thread, isn't it? As thirdcrank and others have noted for most criminal offences a 'guilty mind' or criminal intent is required, except in those offences with strict liability. Not asking permission when it was simple to do so might imply dishonesty but in other cases it would not.

If an item is simply lost by the owner then the finder steals it if they had dishonest intent, whereas if the owner abandoned it, or the finder reasonably believes that they did, there is no dishonesty. If you look at the case law/reports about theft by finding (like the link posted earlier) you will see that there is almost always an element of dishonesty leading to the prosecution, like the woman denying she had found the money in the shop when asked. Conversely, approaching the police with the lost item demonstrated a lack of dishonesty. These days, posts on local facebook group attempting to identify the owner are very common and arguably might serve a similar purpose.

You can find some odd examples of people convicted for taking items from bins and skips but in each of these you will find there is either an element of dishonesty, trespass or a public policy reason motivating the prosecution and conviction.
You will see notices asserting ownership of items in skips and bins or locked covers on them to discourage removal, either because the items have a value or to prevent liability.

A good example for us would be of spotting a rare or valuable bike in a skip and then waiting to remove it surreptitiously, rather than asking to avoid the risk alerting the disposer to its value. That might later be presented as evidence of dishonesty and I think there is a good chance that most people would consider that conduct was dishonest.