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What happens for a first offence of Theft from an Employer?

Section 4 public order | Assault solicitors - Stuart Miller Solicitors

Theft from an employer is a grave offence under the laws of England and Wales, and individuals implicated in such acts often face severe consequences. Whether you or someone you care about is currently facing charges for theft from an employer or is already being prosecuted as a first-time offender, understanding the nature of the offence and its implications is crucial. In this article, we will explore the offence of theft from an employer, providing insights and answers to common questions that arise when dealing with first-time offenders.

What is the offence of theft from an employer?

Theft from an employer, often referred to as employee theft or embezzlement, is a crime under the Theft Act 1968. According to Section 1 of the Act, a person is guilty of theft if they dishonestly appropriate property belonging to another with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it.

In the context of theft from an employer, the property in question often includes money, goods, or information that the employee has access to as part of their employment. This could range from stealing physical items from the workplace to misappropriating funds or misusing confidential information.

To secure a conviction for theft from an employer, the prosecution must prove the following elements:

  • Dishonest appropriation. The defendant must have appropriated (assumed the rights of the owner) the property dishonestly. This means they must have taken the property without the consent of the employer and with the knowledge that their action was dishonest by the standards of honest and reasonable people.
  • Property belonging to another. The property must belong to another person, in this case, the employer.
  • Intention to permanently deprive. The defendant must have intended to permanently deprive the employer of the property. This means they did not intend to return the property to the employer.
  • The subject of the theft must be property, which can include money, goods, or any other form of personal property.

Penalties for theft from an employer are often severe, including imprisonment, fines, or both. The specific penalties will vary depending on the value of the property stolen, the circumstances of the theft, and the impact on the employer. This offence is triable either way, meaning it can be tried in the Magistrates’ Court or the Crown Court, depending on the severity of the offence.

What are some examples of theft from an employer?

Examples of this offence include:

  • Direct stealing – this is the most straightforward form of theft and involves an employee directly taking physical assets from their employer. This might include stealing cash from the cash register, taking products from the store shelves, or taking equipment or supplies for personal use.
  • False expenses – an employee might submit false or inflated expense reports, claiming to have spent money on work-related activities or items when they did not, or claiming more than they actually spent.
  • Payroll fraud – an employee might manipulate the payroll system to overstate their hours worked, rate of pay, or to continue receiving paychecks after their employment has ended.
  • Data theft – an employee might steal sensitive data or information from their employer, such as customer lists, trade secrets, or intellectual property, with the intention to sell or use it for personal gain.
  • Skimming – an employee might intercept or steal cash or other payments before they are recorded in the company’s accounts. This often involves pocketing cash payments from customers or diverting electronic payments into their own accounts.
  • Supplier kickbacks or overbilling – an employee might conspire with a supplier to overcharge the company for goods or services and then receive a portion of the overcharged amount as a kickback.
  • Fraudulent loans or advances – an employee might manipulate the company’s financial system to grant themselves loans or advances on their salary that they are not entitled to.

What happens if you are suspected of committing theft from an employer in the UK?

In the UK, if you are suspected of conspiracy to commit theft from an employer, there are several stages to the process:

  • The first step is typically an internal investigation by the employer. If the employer has reasonable grounds to suspect theft, they may conduct an investigation which could include reviewing CCTV footage, going through financial records, or interviewing employees.
  • Report to the police. If the employer believes they have sufficient evidence of theft, they will likely report the matter to the police.
  • Police investigation. Once reported to the police, they will carry out their own investigation. This could involve interviewing the suspect, seizing and analysing evidence such as computer records, and possibly conducting a search of the suspect’s home or office with a warrant. If the police believe they have enough evidence, they may then arrest the suspect.
  • Arrest and interview. The police can arrest a suspect if they have reasonable grounds to suspect they are involved in a crime. Following an arrest, the police will interview the suspect. In England, you have the right to legal representation during this interview, and it is highly recommended that you exercise this right. Anything you say during this interview can be used as evidence in court.
  • Charge and court process. If, following the interview and any further investigation, the police believe they have enough evidence, they will charge the suspect with a crime. The charge of conspiracy to commit theft would then be heard in court.
  • Court proceedings. The case would likely be heard in the Crown Court, as conspiracy to commit theft is an indictable offence. The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant agreed with one or more other people to commit the theft and that they intended to carry it out. If the defendant is found guilty, the court will then decide on the appropriate sentence.

First-time offenders might be treated more leniently, depending on the circumstances. If you are found guilty but have no previous convictions, the court might take that into account when deciding on your sentence. However, conspiracy to commit theft is a serious offence and could lead to a substantial prison sentence.

What is the sentence for theft from an employer in the UK?

Theft from an employer is usually prosecuted under the Theft Act 1968 in the UK. This offence covers situations where an employee dishonestly appropriates property belonging to their employer with the intention of permanently depriving the employer of it. Generally, the punishment for theft from an employer is up to seven years’ imprisonment.

When sentencing, the judge will consider factors related to the offender’s culpability and the level of harm caused by the offence. Aggravating factors could include: the offence being part of broader organised crime; it being a repeat offence; the commission of other crimes alongside the offence; and any severe impact on the victims. Mitigating factors could include: it being a first-time offence; the offender showing remorse or attempting to repair the harm caused; good character or exemplary conduct elsewhere; and the offender’s young age or lack of maturity.

If it is determined that the offender is still in possession of items or benefits obtained through the theft, a confiscation order may be made by the Crown Court under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

Will I go to prison if it is my first time committing theft from an employer?

Assessing the likelihood of imprisonment for a first-time offence of theft from an employer can be exceptionally challenging. This offence carries significant weight, and judges seldom consider suspending sentences, except in extraordinary circumstances.

Nonetheless, first-time offenders possess an advantage. The fact that it constitutes their first offence is typically seen as a mitigating factor. As such, irrespective of the sentencing guidelines, the first-time nature of the offence can lead to a reduced sentence, possibly by several months or even years, provided other supporting circumstances are present.

For more on whether a first offence of theft from an employer will result in imprisonment, it is advisable to consult an experienced criminal defence solicitor. A theft expert will provide valuable insights into the typical handling of similar cases, evaluate the strength of your defence, and identify any additional mitigating factors that could impact the final outcome.

Where to get further help

Facing charges or a trial for theft from an employer can raise a multitude of concerns and questions about what lies ahead. Seeking early expert legal advice is crucial in such circumstances. At Stuart Miller Solicitors, know that we have the expertise to potentially have the charges dropped prior to trial, particularly for first-time offenders. Don’t hesitate to contact our team today for a free, friendly, and no-obligation consultation.

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