Regina v Williams: 1953

The defendant, a sup-post office mistress, appealed against her conviction for larceny by the use of of ‘false pretences’.
Held: When considering the word ‘fraudulently’ from the phrase ‘fraudulently and without claim of right made in good faith’ , it is for the judge to define whether a state of mind, once ascertained as a matter of fact, was or was not fraudulent.
Lord Goddard CJ said: ‘the court thinks that the word ‘fraudulently’ does add and is intended to add something to the words ‘without claim of right’ and we think it means this (though I am not saying that the words I am about to use will fit every case, but they certainly will fit this particular case) that the taking must be intentional and deliberate, that is to say, without mistake. You must know when you take the property that is the property of another person and that you are taking it deliberately, not by mistake and with an intention to deprive the person of the property in it. A very simple illustration which sometimes arises is where a person picks up a suitcase at a railway station believing that it is his. There may be a suitcase on the flat form when the luggage van is emptied which may so resemble his own that he may pick it up, believing it is his. There, the taking is under a mistake and he is not taking it fraudulently; of course, if he knows it is not his own, as the persons who haunt rail way stations for the purpose of stealing suitcases do, then it is larceny; but if a person, although he is not there setting up a claim of right against someone else, is taking away a suitcase in the mistaken belief that it is his own, he is not acting fraudulently. We think that the word ‘fraudulently’ in the section must mean that it is done intentionally and under no mistake, with the knowledge that it is the property of another person.’


Lord Goddard CJ


[1953] 1 QB 660, [1953] 1 All ER 1068, (1953) 37 Cr App R 71, [1953] 2 WLR 937, (1953) 117 JP 251


Larceny Act 1916 1(1)


England and Wales

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Updated: 11 May 2022; Ref: scu.597673