My caller wishes to remain anonymous, purely from shyness I think. I’ll call him Ben since the story features the Old Bill. Ben is very polite. He says: “A gentleman called yesterday quite early. He told my dad, ‘You sold me a Tuesday copy of my newspaper on a Wednesday’. Dad said this is not possible because of our returns policy.”
The ‘gentleman’ does no more than snatch another copy from the stand and storm out. He works at offices just over the road from the store and was dressed in a suit so not your usual riff-raff.
“He’s 6ft 6in and about 300lbs but my brother and I tried to get it back,” says Ben. By the way, brother is a solicitor who just happened to be visiting and briefly helping out. There were no fisty-cuffs but a bit of argy-bargy and the police attended quickly.
When Ben phoned me he said: “The police have just rung saying they will not be taking the matter any further because they don’t believe he acted dishonestly! They said he just exchanged it. But it was not authorised.”
The solicitor brother says that the definition of theft is to dishonestly appropriate property with the intention of depriving another. It is immaterial whether it was done for gain or for the thief’s own benefit.
The amount involved was obviously minor but the principle is pretty big. As Ben says: “If the police had just said ‘it’s not worth it’, I would have accepted it.”
I’d like to add a personal observation here. If a system is open to abuse or corruption (and name one that isn’t), then somebody somewhere will engage in it. Anyone tuning into any form of news of late will be aware of the journalist hacking scandal (and I confess, ‘Jacthehac’ probably wasn’t the wisest choice of Twitter tags in my case), but everyone I have spoken to agrees that ‘it’ has always gone on, everywhere, all the time. It is just a matter of degrees. When politicians, police and any sort of authority or corporation is involved, we