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If hired property has not been returned it will only be a theft in certain circumstances.

Example:

B hires a car from C for a week and fails to return it on the due date. This does not automatically constitute a theft. B must have somehow treated the car as if it was his own, sold it on or moved from the area and taken the car with him and in doing so permanently deprived C of the ownership of the car.

In many cases, hired property is returned late or there is some misunderstanding. This is likely to be a breach of contract. It is advisable to make some basic enquiries into the matter (or speak to a solicitor) prior to making a formal complaint to the police, so you can give them as much information about the circumstances as possible. There can be a fine line between a civil dispute and theft.

If you are in any doubt (once you have found out why the goods have not been returned), contact the police or a solicitor who will help to explain the law accordingly. A brief summary of theft is below, although it is not intended as a comprehensive explanation.

Theft occurs when someone dishonestly appropriates (takes possession of or makes use of exclusively for oneself/someone else without permission) some property that does not belong to him or her and treats it as his or her own and has no intention of returning the property to its rightful owner.

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Answers in this FAQ section are provided by the 'Ask the Police' website. Produced by the Police National Legal Database (PNLD) team, 'Ask the Police' is an official police site approved by the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC). All FAQ answers are © PNLD.