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Specifically for Ireland.

I recently witnessed a man taking a camera that someone had left behind on a bench in my local village. I confronted the man and he immediately told me that he was planning on taking it to the local police station. I advised him to bring it up to the local shop as people would be more likely to inquire for lost items there. He looked like a respectable man and because he was straight with me when I confronted him I decided to trust that he would do what he said.

I didn't think of it until after he drove away, but luckily my friend had memorized the registration number of the car. I made a note of this information on my phone.

About 5 minutes after this, four Italian tourists came up to me and my friend and asked had we seen a camera, and we told them what had happened. The guy never brought the camera to the local shop and the police station was closed, so he couldn't have possibly dropped it in. (being a rural village in Ireland, there is no real need for full time police)

So, 3 questions:

  • Does this count as theft?
  • Can the man who owns the car be identified by registration number?
  • Should I have taken the camera myself and dropped it into the shop?

I feel bad for the guys. It was clearly a nice camera as well.

I gave the Italians the registration number and advised them to go to the nearest police station, 10km away.

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Does this count as theft?

Yes - it is called "theft by finding"

Can the man who owns the car be identified by registration number?

Yes - registration numbers would be worthless otherwise. This is not generally available to the general public but police and motor vehicle registration authorities can certainly do this. In most common law jurisdictions you can apply to these organizations for the info if you have cause e.g. to identify someone to sue.

Should I have taken the camera myself and dropped it into the shop?

With hindsight, clearly yes as the person who did take it turned out to be dishonest. Of course, you had no way of knowing this in advance.

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