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R v Lloyd, Bhuee & Ali [1985] QB 829 Court of Appeal

Lloyd worked as a chief projectionist at a cinema. Over a period of some months Lloyd took films from his place of work, gave them to Bhuee & Ali who copied them for distribution and gave them back to Lloyd who returned them to the cinema. The judge left the issue of intention to permanently to deprive for the jury to decide. They were all convicted with conspiracy to steal contrary to s.1 Criminal Law Act 1977 (liability requires proof of theft under the Theft Act 1968). They appealed contending that as a matter of law the issue of intention to permanently deprive could not arise in the circumstances so the judge was wrong to put it to the jury.

Held:

Appeal allowed. The convictions were quashed.


The wording of section 6(1) "and a borrowing or lending of it may amount to so treating it if, but only if, the borrowing or lending is for a period and in circumstances making it equivalent to an outright taking or disposal" requires all the goodness, virtue and practical value to be taken from the goods.

The films were returned in much the same condition as when they were taken and thus did not fall within the definition.

Lord Lane CJ:

"These films, it could be said, were borrowed by Lloyd from his employers in order to enable him and the others to carry out their 'piracy' exercise.Borrowing is ex hypothesi not something which is done with an intention permanently to deprive. This half of the subsection, we believe, is intended to make it clear that a mere borrowing is never enough to constitute the necessary guilty Bind unless the intention is to return the "thing" in such a changed state that it can truly be said that all its goodness or virtue has gone. For example R. v. Beecham (1851) 5 Cox. l8l, where the defendant stole railway tickets intending that they should be returned to the railway company in the usual way only after the journeys had been completed. He was convicted of larceny. The learned Judge in the present case gave another example, namely the taking of a torch battery with the intention of returning it only when its power is exhausted.

That being the case, we turn to inquire whether the feature films in this case can fall within that category. Our view is that they cannot. The goodness, the virtue, the practical value of the films to the owners has not gone out of the article. The film could still be projected to paying audiences, and, had everything gone according to the conspirators' plans, would have been projected in the ordinary way to audiences at the Odeon Cinema, Barking, who would have paid for their seats. Our view is that those particular films which were the subject of this alleged conspiracy had not themselves diminished in value at all. What had happened was that the borrowed film had been used or was going to be used to perpetrate a copyright swindle on the owners whereby their commercial interests were grossly and adversely affected in the way that we have endeavoured to describe at the outset of this judgment. That borrowing, it seems to us, was not for a period, or such circumstances, as made it equivalent to an outright taking or disposal. There was still virtue in the film."
 
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