The difference between taking a vehicle without consent (TWOC) and theft of a vehicle.

Ever wondered what the difference was between taking a motor vehicle without consent and theft of a motor vehicle?
Partner Liz Ridgway explains the difference and dispels some of the common myths.

What is TWOC

TWOK or TWOC and TWOKING (or for some TDA – taking and driving away) are all terms that you may have heard of in everyday life out on the street TV drama and documentaries on the TV but what do they actually mean?

Put in its simplest terms T.W.O.C means taking a “conveyance” without the owners consent. At first glance this might seem to be the same as a simple theft of a car, but its not. A conveyance is defined as “any conveyance constructed or adapted for the carriage of a person or persons whether by land, water or air”, so yes you can also TWOC a boat or an aeroplane.

What is the difference between TWOC and theft?

Theft of a car as defined under the Theft Act 1968 is the dishonest taking of a car belonging to another with the intention to permanently depriving the owner of the car. It is this intention to permanently deprive the owner of the car that is the difference between TWOC and the theft of a motor vehicle. To prove this intention essentially means having to prove what is going on inside someone else’s head at the time of an alleged offence, which can be quite a challenge.

This particular difficulty is highlighted by the illegal pastime “joyriding”. If a young person takes someone else’s car and drives it around for the evening with his friends inside before parking it up and abandoning it then it would be difficult for the police to establish that the person who took that car, did so with the intention of depriving the owner of it permanently. The same can be said for those who take a car just for a lift home and then abandon it.

Put simply the joy rider or person who illegally borrows the car for a ride home doesn’t want to own the car himself he just wants to use it temporarily.

This unauthorised taking of a car causes the owner significant upset and inconvenience so this is why in 1968 The Theft act brought in the offence of Taking without consent.

Is there a difference in sentence between TWOC and theft?

Yes, there is a significant difference. TWOC is a summary only offences meaning that it can only be dealt with in the Magistrates Court where the maximum sentence that can be imposed is 6 months imprisonment.

Theft is an either way offence (it can be dealt with in either the Crown or Magistrates Court). In the crown court, the maximum sentence is 7 years imprisonment.

Do I need to drive the car to be guilty?

The short answer is no, under the act it is also an offence to allow yourself to be carried as a passenger in a vehicle that had been taken without the consent of the owner, although the prosecution would have to prove that you knew that the vehicle had been unlawfully taken.

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Liz Ridgeway - Burton Copeland

Liz has been a partner at Burton Copeland for over ten years representing clients at the Magistrates Court on daily basis and now has over 20 years experience as a solicitor in criminal law. To find out more about her see her profile.