Corcoran v Anderton – Case Summary

Corcoran v Anderton

High Court

Citations: (1980) 71 Cr App R 104.


The defendant and his friend saw a woman walking in the street. They agreed with each other to try to steal her handbag. The friend hit the woman in the back and pulled at the bag, but both men fled after the woman screamed, dropped the bag and fell over. They failed to steal the bag, and never gained full control over it at any point.

The two were charged with robbery under s.8(1) of the Theft Act 1968. The defendant argued that there was no appropriation of the handbag, because they had never gained full control over it. At trial, the magistrates concluded that there was appropriation the moment the friend pulled the bag and made the woman drop it. The pair were convicted. The defendant appealed his conviction.

  1. Had there been appropriation of the handbag in this case?

The High Court upheld the conviction. While tugging at the bag alone might not amount to appropriation in some circumstances, pulling hard enough to make it fall out of the victim’s grasp gave the defendants sufficient control to amount to an assumption of the owner’s rights. There had therefore been appropriation.

This Case is Authority For…

Watkins J argued that appropriation depends on the circumstances: ‘It is quite impossible for any court to delineate with precision the point at which in every conceivable kind of circumstance an appropriation begins and ends.’