So, set the scene, you’re in charge of an extremely loud and excited group of children out on their first Easter egg hunt. With their desire for something sweet taking over they are turning everything and anything upside down in their search for chocolate. Then they stumble across something unexpected – a wallet, a bag of cash or a winning lottery ticket. Finders keepers, right? Unfortunately this isn’t always the case. Join us as we take a quick look at some of the recent ownership cases and the legalities surrounding them…..
Case #1 – Amanda and Michael Stacey
In 2009 the Staceys found a winning lottery ticket to the value of £30,000 on the floor in their local supermarket. They cashed in and spent half the winnings on new carpets, treats for their children and paying off their debts. Meanwhile, the ticket’s owner proved to the lottery operator that the winning slip was hers. Police froze the remaining £15,000 and brought charges of theft against the couple. They were each given an 11 month suspended sentence for theft and false representation.
Case #2 – Steven Fletcher
In 2011 Steven Fletcher discovered nearly £18,000 in cash in a fire damaged flat. He handed it in to the police immediately. Unfortunately for Steven the police managed to contest in court that the money was probably linked to criminal activity and as a result it was seized and Steven didn’t see a penny of it.
So, what exactly does the law have to say on finders keepers?
– Ultimately it comes down to who the true owners of the item are, whilst an item may not be in the owners possession, they do still own it, so the finder must take ‘reasonable steps’ to find the owners
– Where an item is found affects who you need to declare it to. For instance if it’s found in a public place it should be reported to the police, except if discovered on a beach when it must be reported to the coastguard
– But remember just because you hand in your bounty does not mean all is lost. If you have taken the correct steps to reunite the lost item with its owner and they never claim it, it’s yours. This is because ultimately you have more right over ownership than anyone other than the true owner
Date: 24 March 2016