Photo: Getty
Photo: Getty


Here are the rules for finding money and keeping it   

A woman has been fined £175 for finding, and keeping, £20 in a One Stop store. Caroline O’Donoghue discusses the morality of this 

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By Caroline O'Donoghue on

A 23-year-old woman with no previous convictions has been found guilty of theft, after picking up a £20 note and keeping it. Nicole Bailey found the £20 in a One Stop shop in Stoke-on-Trent, after another customer had taken the money out of the in-store cashpoint, and was later caught on CCTV pocketing the money. Nicole pleaded guilty, after the police presented her with footage of her in the One Stop, and she will be fined £175. 

Look, OK, fine – maybe Nicole should have reported the money when she found it. But, before we get up on our moral high horses about whether or not we would have kept the money, I have decided that we, as a society, need hard and fast rules for finding and keeping things. While the policeman on Nicole’s case insisted that it’s a crime to keep money or goods someone else has lost, I have to disagree. I’m fully aware that I am in absolutely no position to disagree, given that the policeman has been appointed to uphold the law, and I have not. I have, however, been appointed to write this blog, so I will have my say regardless of the consequences. 


Most people would be a bit bummed out if they lost £20. I won’t argue with that. However, I would argue that the happiness of the person who finds £20 has a much greater value proportionate to the sadness of the person who has lost the £20. You are a little sad if you lose £20, but you are ECSTATIC if you find £20. That would make my week, finding £20 on the street.

However, £20 is the absolute maximum amount of money you can find and keep. The next biggest note is a £50 and you can’t keep £50. That’s a huge amount of money! I don’t think I could keep £50 without feeling very, very guilty about it. 


I can’t wholly get behind Nicole Bailey, because she was indoors when she found the money. That’s not great, Nicole. I appreciate that you’re 23, and 23 is the poorest age – you're post-parental help, but pre-earning decent money – but come on, girl. 

Money found inside a shop = report it immediately.

Money found outside = fair game.

Money found in the foyer of a shopping centre = maybe look around for a bit to see if there’s a security guard, but if there isn’t, just go ahead and keep it. 


As I said already, I’m guessing Nicole – being 23, the age of financial celibacy – wasn’t exactly rich in £20 notes when she pocketed that One Stop money. 

Of course, I'm making a presumption here that the person who lost their £20 was financially OK, and that may have not been the case – it's entirely possible that they needed that £20 more than Nicole did. But I don't blame Nicole for going with her gut, and thinking, "I am SICK of eating own-brand cereal for dinner and I deserve this."

Because that's the main thing about finding money: it makes you feel like fate is on your side, and we all deserve to feel that way. If you’ve got 2p in your pocket and you find a bank note flapping outside The White Company, it’s hard to ignore what feels like divine intervention. Take the money. Spend the money. 

I really feel like Nicole Bailey thought that luck was on her side, the day she found that £20. It wasn’t, of course – she now has a criminal record – but, for a couple of hours, it seemed like the universe was giving her a break. Let’s hope it gives her another one. 


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