Making off without payment

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Making off without payment is a statutory offence in England and Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

England and Wales[edit]

In England and Wales, this offence is created by section 3 of the Theft Act 1978, which provides:

(1) Subject to subsection (3) below, a person who, knowing that payment on the spot for any goods supplied or service done is required or expected from him, dishonestly makes off without having paid as required or expected and with intent to avoid payment of the amount due shall be guilty of an offence.
(2) For purposes of this section 'payment on the spot' includes payment at the time of collecting goods on which work has been done, or in respect of which service has been provided.
(3) Subsection (1) above shall not apply where the supply of the goods or the doing of the service is contrary to law, or where the service done is such that payment is not legally enforceable.

In R v Allen, the House of Lords said that, in order for the offence to be committed, there must be "an intention to permanently deprive" by making off, and that a mere "intention to defer" payment is not sufficient. In theory, a person could eat a meal at a restaurant, not pay, but leave his name and address in order for the restaurant to start civil recovery procedures against him - as long as the details were correct, and he did intend to pay at some point in the future (by way of civil recovery) then no offence under Section 3 would be committed.

Northern Ireland[edit]

This offence is created by article 5 of the Theft (Northern Ireland) Order 1978 (S.I. 1978/1407 (N.I. 23)).

Article 5(4) was repealed on 1 March 2007 by articles 1(2) and 15(4) and 41(2) of, and paragraph 17 of Schedule 1 to, and Schedule 2 to, the Police and Criminal Evidence (Amendment) (Northern Ireland) Order 2007 (S.I. 2007/288 (N.I. 2)).


A person guilty of this offence is liable on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years,[1] or, on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or to a fine not exceeding £1000, or to both.[2]

Republic of Ireland[edit]

This offence is created by section 8 of the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act, 2001.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Theft (Northern Ireland) Order 1978 (S.I. 1978/1407 (N.I. 23)), article 6(2)(b)
  2. ^ The Theft (Northern Ireland) Order 1978 (S.I. 1978/1407 (N.I. 23)), article 6(3)