Like the Theft Act of 1968, the Theft Act of 1978 sought to more clearly define each theft law, or each deception offense in the United Kingdom. Previously, crimes that were perpetrated using acts of deception were sometimes difficult to prosecute due to the lack of a clear definition in common law. In addition, some crimes that were not clearly explained were often left without prosecution because the laws were not clear enough to effectively prosecute the offenders.
The new theft laws covered offenses such as obtaining services and avoiding debt by utilizing deception. Previously, such offenses were not covered by theft laws and those offenses were difficult to successfully prosecute.
The Theft Act of 1978 defined many theft laws, in fewer statutes than what was previously necessary to cover such a wide range of crimes. Included in theft laws was a wide range of deception offenses which were described in a much more efficient manner. The new laws allowed crimes of deception to be easily included in one of several categories of deception crimes. In fact, deception offenses were more clearly outlined so that the language used to describe theft laws was succinct and efficient.
The new statutes covered services which were obtained through deception as well as non-payment for services. In both cases, the perpetrator had stolen services through deception and many types of crimes could be covered by that new language. In addition, the statutes covered theft laws that referenced an individual avoiding liability of debt by utilizing deception.
In all of the statutes, the victim must have lost a benefit that he or she conferred on the offender because of an act of fraud or deception. For example, the victim may have transferred a property title due to a fraudulent statement made by the offender. If the victim did not actually transfer the title, no crime has been committed according to these statutes.
In order to fully understand the implications of each theft law, one must only examine a specific crime. For example, a theft law may state that the deception used to steal property must be based on facts from the past or the present. If an offender were to gain property rights by deceiving the victim about the future, they could not be charged with the same offense as one based on fraudulent facts about the past or present. Since no one can predict the future, false promises do not fall under this type of theft law.
For reasons like that, each theft law has been updated by statutes that are written very succinctly. Although each theft law has since been updated, the Theft Act of 1978 was a necessary step toward achieving succinct laws on fraud-related crimes.