The shock tactics have been employed to encourage motorists to lock their vehicles. Officers have been told they can remove valuable items such as handbags, computers and satnavs, leaving a note telling the owner that they can pick the item up from a local police station.It wouldn't surprise me that such tactics would be effective, but what startled me was the following tidbit of legalese. The police cannot be accused of theft, because...
...the law governing theft means that apart from taking someone else's goods, a person must intend to permanently deprive them of it to be found guilty of theft.Really??? I wonder how well that defense would hold up in court if it were used by someone other than a law enforcement officer. Perhaps it's true. I've certainly never heard it expressed before.
Addendum: Nolandda has found the same provision in the State of Minnesota criminal code -
Minnesota Code > Chapter 609 — Criminal code > 609.52 — Theft.So it's not just a U.K. thing. Caps emphasis mine, but still...Wow!
Subd. 2. Acts constituting theft. Whoever does any of the following commits theft and may be sentenced as provided in subdivision 3:
(1) intentionally and without claim of right takes, uses, transfers, conceals or retains possession of movable property of another without the other's consent AND with intent to deprive the owner PERMANENTLY of possession of the property...
Addendum#2: Replies received by email from some attorney friends -
It's standard in United States law. In the ordinary case (with a non-police officer), there is a serious question whether the defendant is being truthful. In the United States, there are other protections against such police conduct, such as the fourth amendment's ban on searches and seizures without a warrant or the applicability of an exception to the warrant requirement, such as a seizure of contraband in connection with an arrest.
The language exists in Florida statutes and, I suspect, most common law jurisdictions. It makes theft a specific intent crime requiring the perp's intent to be proven as an element of the crime.
I suppose that is why many states have a joyriding statute to cover juveniles who take a car, but do not intend to keep it (do not intend to permanently deprive the owner of the property) in addition to the auto theft statutes.
I believe the officers could be charged with breaking and entering. They would have no right to enter the vehicle and seize property which is not related to a crime. (although many B&E statutes also require intent to commit a crime. I suppose the underlying crime could be trespass.)
The police conduct is unacceptable. I can't believe there is not a better means of educating the public to the hazards they face than to expose them to additional hazard by police officers.