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R v Gilks [1972] 1 WLR 1341

The Appellant placed a bet on a horse called 'Fighting Scott'. The race was won by a horse called 'Fighting Taffy'. The manager of the betting shop mistakenly believed the Appellant had won the bet and paid out £106.63. The Appellant knew that the manager was mistaken but accepted the money. He was convicted of theft and appealed on the grounds that since there was no legal obligation to repay the money following the decision in Morgan v. Ashcroft, 1938 1 Kings Bench, the money was simply a gift and therefore in law belonged to him. He argued that s.5(4) Theft Act 1968 relating to money received by mistake required a legal obligation, moral obligation was not sufficient.


His conviction was upheld because there was no need to invoke s.5(4) of the Theft Act 1968 since the property in the £106.63 never passed to the Appellant and therefore the property belonged to another. However, if s.5 (4) had applied, a moral obligation would not be sufficient to constitute criminal liability.

Cairns LJ:

"Where a person's criminal liability is made dependent or his having an obligation, it would be quite wrong to construe that word so as to cover a moral or social obligation as distinct from a legal one."
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