What is handling stolen goods?
Handling stolen goods is a criminal offence under s 22 of the Theft Act 1968 (TA 1968). This provides:
‘A person handles stolen goods if (otherwise than in the course of the stealing) knowing or believing them to be stolen goods he dishonestly receives the goods, or dishonestly undertakes or assists in their retention, removal, disposal or realisation by or for the benefit of another person, or if he arranges to do so.’
Under s 34 of TA 1968, goods are defined as money and every other description of property, excluding land. This does, however, include objects which have been severed from the land by stealing.
Stolen goods under s 24 of TA 1968 are any goods which have been stolen (contrary to s 1 of TA 1968); obtained by deception (contrary to s 15 of TA 1968); or obtained by blackmail (contrary to s 21 of TA 1968).
For the offence of handling stolen goods under TA 1968 to occur, the goods must remain stolen at the time of handling. Accordingly, s 24 of TA 1968 states that no goods which have been stolen will be regarded as continuing to be stolen once:
- they have been restored to the person from whom they were stolen;
- they have been restored to another form of lawful custody or possession;
- the person from whom they were stolen (and any other person claiming through that person) have otherwise ceased as regards those goods to have any right to restitution in respect of the theft.
Under s 24 of TA 1968, references to stolen goods also include the proceeds of dealings with such goods by the original thief or the handler.
Goods stolen in a foreign country
Goods which have been stolen anywhere other than England and Wales, are stolen goods if they have been obtained or appropriated in such a way that would satisfy the above offences under TA 1968 and that the stealing was criminal under the law of the foreign country in question.
If goods stolen in this manner from a foreign country are then handled in England and Wales, the offence of handling stolen goods under TA 1968 will have occurred.
Section 22 of TA 1968 defines handling as:
- arranging to receive;
- undertaking the retention, removal, disposal or realisation of stolen goods for the benefit of another;
- assisting in the retention, removal, disposal or realisation of stolen goods for the benefit of another;
- arranging to undertake or assist in the retention, removal, disposal or realisation of stolen goods for the benefit of another.
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