brownie law



The last time I had to think of brownie law, I was aged seven and being sworn into my school troop. But following AMT289, Conal has supplied an update:

I’m afraid that your listener who considered taking an unopened brownie from Pret would have committed theft by finding if they had taken it.

However, they may have had an excuse to avoid getting arrested (not in the real world would they ever be arrested!) if they had made reasonable steps to return the Brownie to the rightful owner.

British law uses the word “reasonable” quite a lot, so you’d just have to show that you looked around a bit and maybe asked staff if they had seen the person leave.

Well, Tori has been back in touch to tell us what did happen:

I DID take the brownie.

I waited a full 15 minutes before moving the tray it was on onto my table, putting my my rubbish on the tray, then sneakily used the brownie to mark a page in my book, then slipped the book into my bag after a minute.

I hate to see food wasted – it definitely would have gone in the bin since it was under loads of other wrappers. Pret brownies are too good to waste.

It may not be the sort of ‘reasonable’ that stands up in court, but it does seem reasonable. Is Paul from Wimbledon similarly reasonable, though? He writes:

I was in a London wine bar with a friend, enjoying some wine. A couple at the next table were doing the same but also had a platter of cheese. They left, and about 45 minutes later we noticed that they had left most of their tasty cheese platter. We decided this was fair game and tucked in, polishing the whole lot off. They’d also left half a bottle of wine so we snaffled that as well.

You’ll never guess who then came back? That’s right – the rightful owners of the cheese and wine. My friend grasped the initiative and decided we should leave (after all, we didn’t have any wine or cheese left – which was ours). I quickly paid the bill and we legged it.

Do you think what we did was ok? Surely after 45 minutes you forfeit the right to said cheese and wine?

It certainly seems optimistic to think that you can ditch it for that amount of time, because surely a member of staff would clear it away and give the table to someone else. In fact, if you’re in an establishment where they leave the tables festering for so long, do you really want to eat the cheese? OK, further question: if you eat someone else’s abandoned food and then suffer from food-poisoning, can you complain to the premises where you ‘reasonably’ stole it? Wannabe freegans, you need to brush up on the law before you get started.


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