Melbourne Law School - Theses

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    The law of theft in Victoria
    James, Denzil Robert ( 1967)
    My theme in this thesis is the contention that the substantive law of theft in Victoria is in an unsatisfactory condition and urgently in need of fundamental and comprehensive reform; and that this is so principally for the following two reasons. Firstly, concepts and rules framed in the early English common law for a relatively primitive society and inadequate for the complex framework and activities of the modern occupationally diversified economy still form the basis of much of the present law of theft. Rigid and circumscribed or artificial and fictional uses, in the law of larceny, of the concept of possession,-when reference should be to modern concepts of ownership of property interests-and of the requirement of trespass, -when reference should be to modern concepts of misappropriation- are examples of this. A legal theory framed only for tangibles has proved incapable of facile and useful adaptation to intangibles. Secondly, the history of the law of theft has been marked by piecemeal, ad hoc improvisation, whether by judiciary or legislature, in the successive creation of new offences, or attempted gap-filling in or between old offences, as each new exigency of theory arose. This has led to a confusing multiplicity of authoritatively distinct, though sometimes overlapping, offences-all within the general sphere of theft. It resembles the planting of fruit trees too close together, as in a thicket where none thrived, though one healthy tree, if planted alone, would have done. In such an atmosphere the law has often lost touch with the realities of everyday life. In certain important respects the position is substantially the same in Victoria today. In the pages which follow I shall endeavour to substantiate my contention by a critical examination of the law and its history, with particular reference to certain fundamental problems, and shall finally discuss, in the light of that examination, the sort of reform which seems to be indicated.