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I found a £5 note on the street tucked under some leaves a few months ago while walking a route I regularly walked. There was nobody around and there are no shops near to where I found the note for me to give it in. So was it legal for me to keep this small amount of money and if not what should I do about it?

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Scotland:

Northern Ireland:

Cash
If you find cash, please hand this into your nearest police station. Cash that is not reunited with the owner is donated to charity.

England:

The item I've found is of low value or can't be directly identified to a person
You don't need to report this to us.

Please make reasonable enquiries to try to find the owner, these could include asking people nearby or in offices or shops. You could also consider leaving a note with your details.

If you can't find the owner there's nothing more we can do and you should dispose of the item.

Note: What is to be considered to be low value is not stated.


Other jurasdictions have a threshold.

In Germany it is € 10 (§ 965 (2) BGB).
That would then be £ 8,43 at the present rate.

For any amount larger, it must be reported to the police.
If the owner is not found (again dependent on jurasdiction) it may be given to you.
If the owner is found, a reward between 3 and 5% can be claimed (§ 971 BGB).


Section 965 - German Civil Code (BGB)
Duty of the finder to notify

(1) A person who finds a lost thing and takes possession of it must without undue delay notify the loser or the owner or another person entitled to receive.

(2) If the finder does not know the person entitled to receive or does not know that person’s whereabouts, the finder must without undue delay notify the competent authority of the finding and the circumstances that may be material to determine the person entitled to receive. If the thing is not worth more than ten euros, no notification is necessary.

Note: The original version of the law (1896) it was 3 Marks.


Sources:

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  • This an excellent answer for German law! Do you have any information on what the law is in the UK? – Boolean Jan 24 at 22:36
  • @Boolean British law is more complicated due a lack of a central civil code. It would probably be easier to ask at a local police office, where they probably have a form that meantions the appropriate statute. Perhaps even look in the internet where to report to the police a found object would reveal that statute. – Mark Johnson Jan 24 at 22:43
  • @Boolean This may also be specific to England/Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland. – Mark Johnson Jan 24 at 23:02
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In the UK, there is no lower limit on a threshold on “theft by finding”, and indeed in a recent case in the UK a woman ended up with a criminal record and a conditional discharge for not handing in £20 she found on the floor.

The general advice for the UK tends to be to either hand it in immediately - either at a police station, or if you found it within an establishment then hand it into the establishment - so you can establish a record that you intended to attempt to return it to its owner.

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