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Report No. 61

6.19. Representation as to a matter of law.-

Another question to be considered, in regard to the meaning of deception or representation is, whether a representation as to a matter of law constitutes deception. In England, (in respect of the offence relating to false pretences), because of the requirement that there must be a "false pretence", the general view taken was that there must be an untrue representation as to fact1. In the discussion of the law on the subject, therefore, a distinction was usually made between a representation of fact (on the one hand) and a representation as to opinion, or prediction, or promise (on the other hand).

It was generally stated that the "pretence" must relate to the present . or the past, and not the future. On the specific question whether a representation as to a matter of law would be covered by the statutory offence of false pretence, there was some uncertainty. Many writers took the view that it was covered, but there was no direct reported English case. The position has now been clarified by the Theft Act. Section 15, of that Act punishes a person who by "deception" induces the person deceived to do a certain thing. One of the sub-sections of the Act which is important for the present purpose2, is as follows:-

"(4). For the purpose of this section, "deception" means any deception (whether deliberate or reckless) by words or conduct as to fact or as to law, including a deception as to the present intentions of the person using the deception or any other person."

1. Section 32, Larceny Act, 1916 (repealed) [see now section 15(4), Theft Act, 1968].

2. Section 15 (4), Theft Act, 1968 (English).



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