Handling stolen goods

The following Corporate Crime practice note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Handling stolen goods
  • The ‘handling’ offence
  • Knowing or believing that goods are stolen
  • Search for stolen goods
  • Sentencing for handling

Handling stolen goods

The ‘handling’ offence

Handling stolen goods is an offence that is triable either way.

The elements of the offence are:

  1. dishonestly receiving the goods, or

  2. dishonestly undertaking or assisting in their retention, removal, disposal or realisation by or for the benefit of another person, or arranging to do so

  3. knowing or believing them to be stolen goods, and

  4. the goods having been stolen

The offence is committed while the defendant is acting otherwise than in the course of stealing. As theft can be a continuing act it is sometimes difficult to show whether the defendant in possession of stolen goods is a thief or a handler of goods that have already been stolen. In such cases the prosecution will charge handling in the alternative.

The goods must have been stolen but proof of a conviction for the predicate theft is not required; nor is it necessary to name the person who stole the goods. If the person who stole the goods is specified in the indictment evidence will have to be called to prove that part of the offence.

If the goods have not yet been stolen they cannot be handled, but if steps have been taken that are more than merely preparatory, an offence of conspiracy may be charged (R v Park (1987) 87 Cr. App Rep 164).

The Theft Act 1968 (TA 1968) allows for a

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