R (on the application of Ricketts) v Basildon Magistrates’ Court
Citations:  EWHC 2358 (Admin).
The defendant was stopped by the police while loading bags from a charity shop into his car. When questioned, he told police that he had taken the items in the bags from a bin behind the charity shop, as well as property left in front of a different charity shop. He intended to sell them on. He was charged on two counts of theft of those items.
The defendant issued proceedings for judicial review. He challenged the decision to commit him for prosecution on the grounds that there was no evidence that the property he took ‘belonged to another’ within the meaning of s.5(1) of the Theft Act 1968. The goods, he said, had been abandoned.
- Were the items property belonging to another?
The High Court dismissed the application. It was obvious that those who put the property in the bins behind the charity shops intended to give them to the charity.
In the case of the goods left on the street in front of the shop, the charity had yet to obtain possession or ownership of the goods. However, the people who left them there retained ownership until delivery was complete. They did not abandon the goods. Therefore, someone still owned the items and they were property belonging to another.
In the case of the goods left in the donation bins, it was open to the court to infer that either delivery to the charity was complete (since the charity controlled the bins), or that the charity had put the goods there for disposal by the local authority. Either way, the charity owned and had possession of the goods.
The defendant had therefore been properly committed for trial.
This Case is Authority For…
Items donated to charity shops are not abandoned: their donors retain property until the charity had taken possession of them.
Placing an item in a bin for disposal by the local authority does not result in the goods being abandoned. The owner retains ownership until the local authority takes possession of the item.