When a bin bag containing £100,000 was left on the doorstep of a former vicarage in York last year, the church, which still owned the property, handed it over to the police. When an investigation found no evidence of where the money had come from, the church was told it could keep the cash: two and a half times its normal annual income. The money is being spent on supporting local community causes.
Most people find money lying around at some time, but generally the amounts are considerably smaller. However, what is the procedure if you take it to the police?
A spokesman for Thames Valley Police says “Once you hand it in, we take names and details and if after a certain period of time (usually 28 days) it hasn’t been claimed, you can claim it for yourself.”
However, this is not always the case. When a builder handed in nearly £18,000 that he had found in a burnt-out flat he was renovating, he was less lucky than the York church. A High Court judge ruled that the money was probably the result of criminal activity and subsequently confiscated the money under the Proceeds of Crime Act – and the poor builder received not a penny!
Does the phrase “finders keepers, losers weepers” have any standing in the law? A survey conducted indicated that only four in ten people said they would not bother handing in £100 they had found to the police. 5% said they would give it to charity. More than half said they would just keep the cash.
The publication Readers Digest decided to put people’s honesty to the test. Since people are obviously more honest about handing in cash if there is some way of tracking the owner, they tested the honesty of people in 16 cities worldwide by dropping 12 wallets in each city containing around £30 and a phone number. Helsinki came out as the most honest city – 11 out of the 12 wallets were returned to their owner! Lisbon was worst, only one wallet was repatriated with its owner – and the couple who returned it were actually Dutch! London came in ninth place for honesty with five of the wallets being handed back.
The law states that the finder must take ‘reasonable steps’ to trace the owner. The more you find, the more you are expected to do. If you find 50 pence in the street you are not expected to go miles to the police station to hand it in, but if you find £5,000 then the situation is different. Remember though that if you follow someone along the street and you see them drop their wallet, or see them drop money in a restaurant or wherever, you cannot keep it as this is tantamount to stealing because you know who the wallet or money belongs to.
Losing cash is traumatic, and if you have a purse or wallet stolen containing debit/credit/store cards, do remember to report their loss and cancel them immediately. You may be able to claim under your household contents insurance, but check your policy as they vary greatly. If you have concerns regarding your insurance, why not call our friendly and professional team at Westhill Insurance Services? We will be able to answer any questions you may have – and not just about contents insurance as we cover anything from vehicle insurance to unusual build properties as well as commercial insurance. Westhill Insurance – good, all round insurance with the personal touch.