CRIMINAL LAW 2.5 RECEIVING STOLEN PROPERTY
Section 427 of the Criminal Code provides that it is an offence to “knowingly” receive anything which has been obtained by an act constituting a felony or a misdemeanour. Local or foreign.
- The actus reus of this offence is the receipt of property obtained by a means constituting a misdemeanour or felony.
- The mens rea being the knowledge that the article received has been obtained by a felonious means or misdemeanour.
The elements of the offence include;
- The accused must have received a property:
This may be established where it is in his actual (physical) or constructive. As was seen in Olujomoye V R, receipt is constructive where the property is held by a servant or agent of the accused.
:: Where two are involved and one has knowledge that the other has unlawful possession of property, both of them are deemed to be in unlawful possession of the property- R V Uko.
:: Aiding in disposal ( that is; selling, altering, destroying and so on) is also receipt. However, such assistance must be certain. In R V Osakwe, the accused had promised to get a buyer for a stolen property. While he was still negotiating with the thieves, the police arrived. The court held that the car had not yet gotten into his possession, nor could the prosecutor fully say he aided in disposing the property.
- The property received must be goods obtained by an act constituting a felony or misdemeanour:
Thus the act committed to obtain the goods must be capable of grounding conviction for not less than 6 months. The goods must continue to be such (stolen) at the time of receipt. In R V King the court held that the goods were no longer stolen where they had been recaptured by the police.
There are certain instances that cannot amount to theft… some examples include:
- There can be no theft between spouses of a Christian marriage–Section 36 of the Criminal Code. As such, receipt from a wife who had stolen from her husband could not ground liability in R V Creamer.
- A child below seven years (7) is devoid of criminal liability (cannot be guilty of a crime). –Section 30 of the Criminal Code. As such, no offence is committed where stolen property is received from an infant. The receiver can however be convicted for stealing, where he subsequently misappropriates the property-Walters V
- A person cannot steal his property. Thus where a person receives his own property, he cannot be convicted under this Section.
- Section 24 of the Sale of Goods Act (in certain circumstances) confers a lawful title where property is acquired through sale in market overt and where the property is transferred in other deserving circumstances.
- Guilty Knowledge
The prosecution must be able to establish that at the time of receipt, the accused knew that the property was stolen/obtained by a means constituting a misdemeanour or felony to facilitate the criminal’s act. Remember your first semester work for the meaning of misdemeanour and felony.In R V Matthews, the court held that receiving stolen goods to hand same over to the police would not ground liability as there is no guilty knowledge. In R V Wiley the court held that where the goods are planted without the accused’s knowledge or consent, there could be no liability under the Section.
Guilty knowledge may be inferred from:
- Suspicious circumstances of the case: for example the secrecy of the transaction, the price, Previous dealings between the thief and the receiver. R V Braimah. It was construed where the property was sold at a ridiculously low price.
- Section 47 (formerly 46) of the Evidence Act; where within 12 months, a previously stolen property has been found in the accused’s possession… within 5 years preceding the charge, he has been convicted for an offence involving fraud and dishonesty. These facts can be presented as evidence upon 7 days’ notice to the offender.
- The doctrine of recent possession. From the interpretation of Section 149/167 (formerly 148) of the Evidence Act, a man who is in possession of stolen goods soon after the theft, is presumed to be the thief or receiver if he cannot provide a reasonable explanation. The burden of proving guilty knowledge rests on the prosecution. “recent” depends on the circumstances. In R V Iyakwe, the accused was said to be a receiver where shoes stolen 5 months ago were found in his custody.
What happens when the stolen property has been converted or transformed into another form and the accused received the goods in that form? There would be no liability per se under receiving as envisaged under Nigeria’s Law. However in England conviction may be grounded as was seen in D’Andrea V Woods, where the accused was convicted under the Larceny Act for receiving money knowing it to have been converted from stolen goods.
The punishment for receiving stolen property is 7 years and 14 years where the property was gotten by means constituting a misdemeanour or a felony respectively. Life imprisonment is provided under Section 427 of the Criminal Code where it is a Postal matter.
TOPIC SIX: POSSESSION OF GOODS REASONABLY SUSPECTED TO HAVE BEEN STOLEN.
Section 430 criminalizes the above. Reasonable suspicion means something more than mere imagination. This Section must be applied with caution-R V Ayanshina. Unlike receiving stolen property, reasonableness rather than Intention is the fulcrum here. The punishment being N200 fine or 6months imprisonment. The possession can be by the person, his carrier or agent.