Making off without payment

Under s 3 of the Theft Act 1978 (TA 1978), the criminal offence of making off without payment is committed if ‘a person who, knowing that payment on the spot for any goods supplied or service done is required or expected from him, dishonestly makes off without having paid as required or expected and with intent to avoid payment of the amount’.

Sneaking out of a restaurant without paying the bill falls squarely within this definition.

What needs to be established?

For the offence to be established the following elements need to be present:

  • making off;
  • without payment;
  • knowledge that payment is required on the spot;
  • goods supplied or services done;
  • intention to avoid payment;
  • dishonesty.

Making off

If we take the example of leaving a restaurant without paying the bill, making off will occur when an individual goes beyond the spot where the payment is required or expected. This would include leaving the restaurant, but not simply leaving the table to go to the toilet.

Without payment

Without payment takes its prima facie meaning of simply not providing any money for the goods or services.

Knowledge that payment is required on the spot

‘Payment on the spot’ includes payment at the time of collecting goods on which work has been done or in respect of which service has been provided. No liability can arise if the person thought the goods were free or offered on credit.

Goods supplied or services done

Goods or services must have actually been supplied for which payment would be expected. Under s 3(3) of TA 1978, no offence of making off without payment is committed where the supply of the goods or the doing of the service is against to law (eg, paying a bank robber’s getaway driver), or where the service rendered is one for which payment is not legally enforceable (eg, paying a prostitute).

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For more information on:

  • Intention to avoid payment
  • Dishonesty
  • Penalties