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The dishonest appropriation of property belonging to someone else with the intention of keeping it permanently (see *dishonesty). It includes any act showing that one is treating the article as one’s own and need not necessarily involve taking it away (for example, purporting to sell someone else’s property could amount to an appropriation). 'Property' includes all tangible and intangible objects and choses in action (e.g. bank balances) but there are special rules in the Theft Act 1968 governing land and wild plants and animals (see *poaching). Property belongs to anyone who either owns it or has physical possession or control of it. The Act expressly states that a person is not dishonest if he believes (even if unreasonably) that he is legally entitled to appropriate the property or that the owner would consent or could not be discovered by taking reasonable steps. The punishment for theft is up to ten years’ imprisonment.

Obtaining goods or services without paying for them is now covered by the offence of *making off without payment (see also *shoplifting). Cases in which property is obtained by deception are usually dealt with as *deception offences. Theft involving the use of force may amount to *robbery. See also *burglary; *conveyance.

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