Claim of Right

A claim of right exists when the accused honestly believes they were legally entitled to property which has become the focus of a criminal charge.

A claim of right defence is raised for property offences where the accused honestly believed they were legally entitled to the property.

This defence asserts that the accused was under the honest belief, even though mistaken, that they had a legal right to an item they are accused of unlawfully owning or possessing and that they were simply exercising what they believed to be a legal possessory or proprietary right.

For this defence to be raised, the claim of right of legal entitlement must be honestly held, and it is the responsibility defendant to prove that the belief was an honest one. The defendant does not need to prove that the belief was reasonable; however the reasonableness of the belief does become relevant when the court determines how plausible the assertion of honesty of belief is.

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