TAKING AND DRIVING AWAY/AGGRAVATED VEHICLE TAKING:
s.12 Theft Act 1968
...a person shall be guilty of an offence if, without having the consent of the owner or other lawful authority, he takes any conveyance for his own or another's use, or knowing that any conveyance has been taken without such authority, drives it or allows himself to be carried in or on it.
The elements of the offence
There must be some positive movement of the vehicle. Simply rolling it forwards or backwards a few metres is not sufficient but, equally, it is not necessary that the engine be started. Releasing the brake and allowing the vehicle to run down a hill would be sufficient, as would driving the vehicle for a short distance.
To be a conveyance, the vehicle must have been constructed or adapted to carry a driver (and others, depending on the design) whether by land, water or air (so it includes a hovercraft). The taking of a pedal cycle or the riding of pedal cycle, knowing it to have been taken without the owner's consent is excluded from s12(1), but covered by s12(5) with reduced penalties.
Without the consent of the owner
If the vehicle is taken with the owner's knowledge, the owner has consented.
But apparent consent can be ignored if obtained by a deception, e.g. giving a false identity when hiring a car. This overlaps with the s15 offence of obtaining property or services by deception.
Taking by force may be robbery.
The defendant must know that the vehicle has been taken without the owner's consent, and that the accused has either driven the vehicle or been a passenger.
s12(6) allows a defence where the defendant believes that he has the lawful authority to do it or that he would have the owner's consent if the owner knew of his doing it and the circumstances of it. So, for example, if a vehicle was moved a short distance because it was causing an obstruction, those moving it might reasonably believe that they have lawful authority to remove the obstruction.
Because s12 is a summary only offence, there can be no attempt, so anticipatory acts are an offence of vehicle interference contrary to s9 Criminal Attempts Act 1981. The defendant must interfere with the vehicle or a trailer or anything in or on it. Merely touching the vehicle would not be enough. There must be some positive effort made to enter or affect it, and an intention to take or steal it.
This is committed if a person commits an offence under section 12(1) of the 1968 Act in relation to a mechanically propelled vehicle and it is proved that at any time after the vehicle was unlawfully taken (whether by that person or another) and before it was recovered, the vehicle was driven, or death, injury or damage was caused, in one or more the circumstances listed in s12A(2):
(a) that the vehicle was driven dangerously on a road or other public place;
(b) that, owing to the driving of the vehicle, an accident occurred by which injury was caused to any person;
(c) that, owing to the driving of the vehicle, an accident occurred by which damage was caused to any property, other than the vehicle;
(d) that damage was caused to the vehicle.
There are two offences: under s12A(2)(b) where an accident results in the death of another (maximum 14 year sentence), and the less serious version under the other three headings (maximum two years sentence). In R v Marcus Leon Ashley Forbes (2005) EWCA Crim 2069, the defendant was seen to take a car and then engaged in a high-speed car chase with the police. The judge at first instance described the defendant as a menace, having driven in ways that could so easily have killed wholly innocent road users while disqualified, while released on licence having been convicted of other aggravated TWOC offences, and while "out of his head" on ecstasy. He had a long track record of convictions. The judge imposed the maximum consecutive sentences for aggravated taking and driving while disqualified. According to R v March (2002) 2 Cr. App. R. (S) 448, credit should be given for a guilty plea and Forbes felt a keen sense of injustice that he had been given the maximum sentence. The Court of Appeal confirmed the consecutive element of the sentence but felt that there was no overwhelming public policy justification for awarding the maximum sentence. Accordingly, a reduction was made to 22 months' detention in a young offender institution