I can steal it- it’s mine.
A claim of right is a defence to larceny. Some interesting cases have been determined over many years that show when someone owes you an item, an honest belief to an entitlement to that property is a defence to the act of unlawfully retrieving it.
An 1828 case heard a man had been wrongly catching pheasant with set wires. A gamekeeper found them and held them. The owner threatened to “beat his brain out”, and this was held to not be robbery because he believed he was getting his equipment back.
A much later case in 1983, shows that an employee was owed $5,000.00 in entitlements from his employer. After requesting that the employer hand over his entitlements and being refused, he illegally broke into a shed of the employee, and stole drums of oil worth around the same as the debt.
The appeal was successful with the Judge deciding “is there a possibility of an honest claim of right existing”. It is worth noting that this belief doesn’t have to be correct, or even reasonable.
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This is intended for general information and does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Formal legal advice should be sought.