A woman has been charged with theft after pocketing a £20 note which was left in a convenience store in Blurton, Staffordshire. The original owner of the money returned to the shop to complain about the lost note and the woman was caught through CCTV evidence. She was charged by the police and ordered to pay £175 in court charges and was handed a six-month conditional discharge.

This case, thought to be the most high profile of its kind, has highlighted the lack of awareness  that taking money that doesn’t belong to you, whether dropped or misplaced by the owner, is a criminal offence amounting to theft. Many people will often count themselves lucky if they find money in a public place but that luck could soon turn if you are caught pocketing it or if the original owner makes a complaint.

Karen Stevenson, Staffordshire Police Chief Inspector, clarified the legal definition of theft as “the dishonest appropriation of property belonging to another with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it”.

She also explained what you should do if you find money that has been dropped;

“We would actively encourage any member of the public who picks up money that has been dropped to be honest and do the right thing by taking all reasonable steps to try and find the owner.”

With the amount of comments and press the case has received, it is hoped that members of the public will think twice before immediately keeping money they have found without making an attempt to return it. With a day specially dedicated to random acts of kindness just passed, you might just make someone’s day and avoid getting yourself a criminal record.

Farleys Solicitors have a specialist criminal law team who have experience of representing clients in criminal law cases. Our solicitors can also provide advice during police station interviews. To speak to a specialist, please call 0845 287 0939 or submit your enquiry online.