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What Should I Do if I Find Something Valuable in The Street?

What Should I Do if I Find Something Valuable in The Street?

The law considers found property as belonging to the person who has possession of it, but that person also has a duty to take reasonable steps to try and find the owner.

So, if you find money that is not yours, the right thing to do is to try and find the rightful owner and return it to them.

You can ask around in the area where you found the money, post on social media or lost and found websites, or turn it in to the police. If you are unable to find the rightful owner, you can turn the money in to the police, who will hold it for a certain period of time before it is returned to you if nobody claims it.

Keep in mind that keeping money that you know does not belong to you is considered morally wrong, but it can also be considered theft, and you could face legal consequences if the original owner decides to report it. It is always best to do the right thing and try to return the money to its rightful owner.

But it’s not the same for everything you find and the law on lost property isn’t well defined. 

Hand It In

In the UK, if you find money or an item that’s been lost, you have a legal obligation to take reasonable steps to try and return it to the rightful owner. And failing that you should hand it to the police.

If you find something in a venue or shop, hand it in to the staff there. If it’s somewhere public, try to locate the owner.

The police won’t take in everything that’s been found. Firearms, weapons, ammunition, cash, or items that are believed to have been involved in a crime are ok. They will also accept items that contain personal data, such as wallets or personal documents that can be identified.

However, they will not accept items such as bikes, jackets, keys, jewellery, or anything that cannot be identified.

The police will make efforts to locate the owner and return the property to them. If nobody claims the property it may be returned to you.

Is it Theft?

If the lost item is not claimed within a certain period of time (typically around six weeks), you may be able to claim it as your own.

However, if you choose to keep anything you found without making reasonable efforts to locate the rightful owner, it could be considered theft under section 1 of the Theft Act 1968. The act defines theft as the dishonest appropriation of property belonging to another person, with the intention of permanently depriving them of it.

If you find yourself in a predicament, or just need advice these solicitors in Chelmsford are experts in criminal law and can advise you on the right course of action. 

If You Are a Business Owner

Generally, the same rules apply to business. As it is more likely that someone who has lost something will return to the venue where it was lost than a police station, the official position is that you should hold on to the item yourself.

The law also states that you must take ‘reasonable’ steps to document and keep the item safe. And also respond to enquiries related to the lost item.

There is no definition of how long an item should be held for – unless it’s lost on the transport network. The law simply states that it must be held for a ‘reasonable’ time. As long as the venue can show they acted reasonably in looking after the item and opportunities for its return, this could be as short as a week in venues where lost property is common.

Transport networks must hold items for three months.

Final Thoughts

The law isn’t clearly defined about lost property, and the police won’t accept everything that has been misplaced and subsequently found. If you find something, then the best advice is do what you can to return it to the owner. Even if it’s not a legal obligation you’re likely to return it to a very grateful person. And you never know… it could be you on the losing end one day.

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