Every little helps, unless Tesco throw it away - then it's theft

11 February 2011

Bitterwallet - tesco logoTesco continues to expand and make tens of billions in profit from UK consumers, and they've doneso  by following their own motto - every little helps. Or perhaps it's where there's a will, there's a way. Or maybe finders keepers, losers call the police and have you arrested.

And so we cross over to the Tesco store in Great Baddow, Essex, which recently suffered a power cut, leading to thousands of pound's worth of frozen goods going to waste. According to The Telegraph, supermarket staff binned up the food and left it in the street for collection.

A nearby shopworker, Sasha Hall, helped herself to items from the rubbish, and was more than a little surprised to be arrested at her home hours later for theft-by-finding. Hall was allegedly handcuffed and took to a nearby station for questioning. "Tesco clearly did not want the food," said Hall. "They dumped it and rather than see it go to waste, I thought I could help feed me and my family for a week or two."

A week or two? Yessir - the woman apparently helped herself to £200 of food, so hardly one or two items spilling out a rubbish bag. She has now been charged with theft-by-finding. That aside, did Tesco really need to involve the police with the theft of their rubbish from the street?

TOPICS:   UK News   Scams


  • Rich
    Bad Tesco!
  • Nick T.
    Wasn't there a programme on ITV recently where entire meals were made from out-of-date food scavenged from the bins behind Sainsbury's? Always knew they were better than Tesco.
  • Mar
    I was charged with attempted burgelary for rummaging through the wealth of amazing food that waitrose were binning! It's amazing, 30% of food is thrown away. No attempts are made by supermarkets or anyone further up the food chain to put this waste back into society or even the soil. Except M&S, they give their "out of date" furit and veg to the zoo, but not just any zoo... Check out this is rubbish for more on the food waste crazyness
  • brian
    In English law, consolidation is both less complete and more complex. The Theft Act 1968 makes no explicit reference to theft by failing to return lost or misdelivered property, though, the Act is ‘obviously intended’ to preserve the substance of the common law rule which makes failing to return found property a form of theft. Section 1 of the Act states that a person is guilty of theft if he dishonestly ‘appropriates’ property belonging to another with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it. Section 3(1), in turn, states that, ‘[a]ny assumption by a person of the rights of an owner amounts to an appropriation, and this includes, where he has come by the property (innocently or not) without stealing it, any later assumption of a right to it by keeping or dealing with it as owner.’ Thus, under English law, theft by failing to return lost or misdelivered property is subject to the same punishment as core cases of commissive theft. The food was neither lost or misdelivered therefore how can the police charge her for theft by finding. Tesco knew where the food was and didn't want it. Not going to shop at tesco again if that's how they treat people.
  • Phil76
    So according to the info posted by Brian above, if you want to be completely above the law, you should return Tesco's property to them. Who's first to drag a wheely bin into the shop and empty it? Form a queue.
  • brian
    @Phil 76: Great idea! A plan would be to pick up the thrown out food from their bins and take it back in the store stating that they have found some property that belongs to tesco and under the The Theft act 1968 am returning said property to the rightful owner! Hah! Hav that Tesco's!
  • Johnny H.
    Theft by finding hinges on the fact that items are not intentionally discarded ... which the food was in this case. Likewise, if the food were still on Tesco's own property (even in a bin), then it would still be theft ... but the report says that Tesco had wheeled the rubbish out onto the street. I agree with Brian that there can't legally be any case to answer.
  • The B.
    I used to work in ASDA back when I was a student and all food that had Best Before from the previous day (i.e. not allowed to be on sale to the public but still edible) was stored in a "staff freezer" and further reduced to minimise losses (we were ranked 3rd in the country on sales at that point). All that changed when we got a new store manager who was ocd on cleanliness, he once threw away 20 TV's because the boxes were broken (he was an utter loon).
  • Tim
    "but the report says that Tesco had wheeled the rubbish out onto the street" I think once it's in the bin and on the street it's the council's property so would still be theft. Theft by finding is one of the more daft English laws though.
  • Joe B.
    "Theft by finding is one of the more daft English laws though." Not when applied correctly. Tesco's case = stupid Finding £10,000 in cash on the street and making no effort to find out who it belongs to = reasonable
  • Gunn
    It should be sold to staff for a small fee
  • klingelton
    @Gunn M&S do the very same - thanks to this and my sister in laws current employment - i was able to get my fill of no less than 3 turkeys this christmas. and one LARGE yule log! (not the byproduct of the turkey, but actual choc log)
  • MrTheftAct
    There is no case to answer and there is no "Theft by finding" law in place. The Theft Act 1963 states that theft has occured if a person dishonestly appropriates property belonging to another with the intention of permenantly depriving the other of it. In this case, Sasha Hall would have genuinely believed that Tesco had relinquished their rights as an owner by throwing it in a bin and placing it on a street. Therefore, Ms Hall would have simply said that she geuinely believed that Tesco wouldn't mind her taking the food and thus was not dishonestly appropriating the food - that would have been enough to have the case fall flat on it's face. Me thinks there's a bit of BS bingo going with regards to her being charged.
  • Mary C.
    Tesco should hang its head in shame - this was food they were going to throw away - hopw on earth can it be theft!! I shall be shopping anywhere BUT Tesco in future.
  • Ex P.
    It can' be theft from the councils wheely bin can it?!! Read the definition of the theft act 1968......
  • Nina h.
    Wat a load of rubbish Tesco are soo out of order Sashas Mum were going to court 12 April
  • Very A.
    To add to comments regarding the law (now that sentencing is imminent)...I feel this woman has been so wronged that in the last few minutes I did a little digging. Would you believe that one highly placed expert in law seems to suggest she did not actually break the law. John Spencer, professor of law at the University of Cambridge. "There are certain circumstances in which a finder can legally become a keeper. For example, someone can retain something if it has been abandoned," says Professor Spencer. "You are only guilty of theft if you appropriate the property of another. If someone has abandoned it, the property is yours," he says. I quote from BBC News of 24 July 2009.
  • Dan
    I laugh in the face of people who suggest that 'I will not be shopping at Tesco blar blar' Every supermarket does this, fact. Oh, and one example out of more then 2500 stores? Ha... Morrisons, Sainsburys, Asda... even your beloved M&S and Waitrose. They all have waste. They all throw it in the bin. Why? That's because greedy GREEDY scroungers would queue up like a tramp congregation waiting for the waste to be given to all the general public with 'humans' fighting in line with carrier bags and perhaps SKIPS of food. Treading on each other, crushing other people to death whilst greedily packing their cars to the point of no suspension. ...and should one of those people get ill??? Well, there is a sueing case right there. We live in a Sue culture. At the end of the day, we are not rats. We might be in recession, but we are not rodents who scavenge rubbish and out of date food.

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