Apparently, “finders keepers” is not a thing!

Woman who picked up a £20 note arrested and embarrassed – but wouldn’t many of us do the same?

You find a £20 note lying, apparently abandoned, on the floor…do you pick it up? If your answer was yes, watch out because you could land yourself a criminal record.

Unsuspecting, 23-year-old Nicole Bailey had no clue what was in store for her when she picked up a £20 note she found on the floor in a branch of One Stop in Blurton, Stoke-on-Trent. It turned out that the cash belonged to a man who’d recently withdrawn it from a cash machine but had accidently dropped it on the shop floor.

The man went back to the shop where he’d got the cash, to track down his errant note. The staff hadn’t seen anything so they decided to consult the CCTV.

A group of police officers that clearly had a bit of spare time on their hands then decided to track Nicole down and bring her in for questioning.

Nicole initially denied having taken the money. Yet when officer’s confronted her with the CCTV footage, she eventually confessed to her crimes.

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As a result, the young woman was taken to court on a theft charge! (But seriously, you would have to be a saint not to pick up apparently ownerless money lying on the floor!)

While, yes admittedly, the money wasn’t hers, it all seems a little over the top for a £20 note! Nevertheless a full court hearing was held at the North Staffordshire Justice Centre.

Theft is legally defined as “the dishonest appropriation of property belonging to another with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it.” We’re not claiming any legal expertise here, but it seems a bit of stretch to label Nicole “dishonest”, or say that she had any malicious intentions of “depriving” someone of their property.

Mitigator Simon Dykes seems to agree that the whole thing was blown out of proportion, too. He said that a police caution might have been more appropriate. However, he did confirm the illegal nature of such behaviour.

“She didn’t know who the money belonged to. People don’t realise picking up something you have found amounts to a theft. She has been quite naive in doing so,” he said.

Chief Inspector Karen Stevenson, from Staffordshire Police, made a statement in light of the court case. She said anyone who finds lost money must “do the right thing”.

“Morally, the right thing to do is hand in any found property so that the person who has lost out has every opportunity to be reunited with it.”

“This was someone’s hard-earned money and we are committed to supporting all victims in our community.”

Nicole pleaded guilty in court for her apparently criminal actions. She was convicted of theft, but given a conditional discharge. And has been made to pay a whopping £175 in costs and charges. (Finding that £20 note wasn’t so lucky after all!)

So here’s a lesson to take away from this: next time you find cash on the floor, best hand it in to the authorities. Pocketing it yourself could mean risking a fine, a court case and a criminal record!


Words: Annie Simon