In the UK there is a grassroots campaign in which participants hide newspaper publications they consider to be of a dubious moral or political standing with the intent of making it more difficult for the readers of said publication to obtain it, or at least it removing it from public view. The newspaper most frequently targeted has branded judges and elected members of Parliament as traitors and is well known as a source of 'fake news' to the point where it cannot be cited as a source in Wikipedia.

Usually they cover the offending title with another, but in some cases move the goods to another unrelated part of the shop (often the toilet-roll section.)

In my research I saw Fiup's answer to "Proving Theft From a Store" which seems to suggest that since the legitimate owner (the shop) is not being deprived of the goods it would suggest that no criminal act is being committed.

Clearly a store can ask anyone partaking in the this activity to leave (and may choose to ban them from the premises) but is the mover of papers committing an offence since their intent is not to remove them from the store?

Note: I have no intent to join this movement, just curious.

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    Tortious interference with business, perhaps? Don't know enough of the details to be sure whether it applies here, since the newspapers are still available in the store to the public consumer - just not in the place the seller put them.
    – user4657
    Commented Dec 15, 2017 at 4:57
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    If the store owner finds the newspapers the next day, he is deprived of "freshly printed newspapers that can be sold at the advertised price", and they are replaced by "out of date newspapers that are good for nothing". So I would say the store owner is deprived.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Dec 17, 2017 at 15:19
  • In other cases, hiding goods in a store is often a preparatory step to then steal them. Instead of a thief having to pick individual items and running away, at somehow high risk, the put lots of individual items into one place, and later someone else goes to that hidden place and removes them from the store.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Dec 17, 2017 at 15:21
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    @gnasher729 - aren't newspapers sold on a "sale or return" basis? Commented Dec 18, 2017 at 21:48

2 Answers 2


You've already found an answer to the question about theft in the linked answer, that since they do not take the goods, nor even intend to take them away permanently there can be no consideration for theft here.

There may be a case of criminal damage though, reading up on CPS website brings up some interesting points, notably:

Damage is not defined by the Act and what constitutes damage is a matter of fact and degree. The courts have construed the term liberally and included damage that is not permanent such as smearing mud on the walls of a police cell.

The damage need not be visible or tangible if it affects the value or performance of the property.

It could be argued that by rearranging merchandise in a shop, with clear intent to disrupt its operation you are affecting the performance of the store, and that just may fall under criminal damage. Especially when done regularly, or in an organized way; something that demonstrably affects the business.

Though in practice I doubt that anyone, besides the people "hiding" the papers, will care. Shelves in most newspaper stores are inspected and restocked multiple times a day, and as a part of normal customers routine stuff gets moved around and later corrected by staff.



There's likely a case to be made for either conversion or trespass to a chattel. And the UK also passed the Torts (Interference with Goods) Act in 1977.

Because the link above is a little light on detail, I've added a US-based answer that tries to flesh it out somewhat. Much of the relevant tort law below derives from common law, so hopefully it's helpful, if for nothing other than context.



Conversion is an intentional exercise of dominion/control that interferes enough with the owner's right that the perpetrator may be required to pay full value.

One could make a case that hiding property intended for resale interferes with the merchant's ability to obtain the proceeds of selling it to another. This is exacerbated by the fact that the value of newspaper content declines over time. Whether conversion would stick likely depends on showing that the perpetrator's act of hiding the property demonstrated an intent to exercise control for a limited period of time.

Even though your question specifies the UK, the factors considered in the US may still be useful given their common law foundations:

a) the extent and duration of actor's exercise of dominion, b) actor’s intent to assert a right in fact inconsistent with the other's right of control, c) the actor’s good faith, d) the extent and duration of the resulting interference with the other's right of control, e) the harm done to the chattel, f) the inconvenience and expense caused to the other.

Restatement (Second) of Torts § 222A

Trespass to a chattel

This is a category of intentional tort whereby the perpetrator meddles sufficiently with another's property. The factors US courts usually consider are whether:

a) he dispossesses the other of it, or b) it is impaired as to condition, quality, value, or c) possessor is deprived of its use for a substantial time, or d) bodily harm is caused to possessor or 3d party/thing in possessor’s legally protected interest.

Restatement (Second) of Torts § 218

  • "Flush it out" ?????
    – DJohnM
    Commented Dec 25, 2017 at 19:59

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