Stealing basically involves taking a persons property, without consent, without a claim of right over the property, and with the intention of permanently depriving the person of the use of their property.
It can occur in so many different ways that it is hard to list. It includes shoplifting and it can include finding property (such as money or a watch or wallet) in the street and deciding to keep it – referred to as stealing by finding – whereby the acquisition of the property might not have been unlawful at the time.
Stealing potentially carries a sentence of imprisonment and is treated seriously by the courts. The value of the property may have some part to play in the sentencing process, as will the circumstances in which the offence is alleged to have occurred – such as the degree of planning used in committing the offence or whether there was a relationship of trust between the owner and the person who took the property.
Sometimes however a person has a claim of right of the property that they took. They might honestly hold a belief that they were entitled to take possession of the property – and therefore might not be guilty of any offence.
It is possible to steal your own property! For example, if you took your car for repairs but failed to pay the account and the mechanic refused to hand over your car until payment was made, you could be charged with stealing if you used a spare key to take your car because the mechanic had special ownership over your property.
Stealing is an offence of dishonesty and this is reflected in the punishments imposed by Courts.