Examining the evidence and the law
If a supplier alleges that a meter has been tampered with, there are three key areas to consider.
•You must establish what exactly is alleged. On what basis has the supplier found that the meter has been tampered with? In some cases, it will be obvious that the only explanation for damage to a meter is tampering – eg, there is physical evidence of deliberately damage. In other cases, there may be alternative explanations – eg, if meter seals are missing, it may be that these are company seals which were never put on, or were removed by the supplier but not replaced, or have been removed by someone else. Any evidence the supplier has should be presented to you so that you can comment. However, take care in any comment you make, as it is unlikely that you will be cautioned about anything you say possibly being used against you in court.
•You should investigate whether the supplier has evidence that it was you, and not someone else – such as a landlord or neighbour – who tampered with the meter. Usually, the supplier will not know who undertook the tampering. This can make it more difficult for the supplier to take action against you than it would be if it had clear evidence of your involvement. It will help if you can explain why it has been tampered with – eg, if you know that the meter was taken over from a previous occupier who had tampered with it or that it was damaged by builders. However, evidence that the meter was interfered with while in your custody can, depending on the circumstances, be sufficient to convict you for theft of electricity,1Semple v Hingston  Greens Weekly Reports 21:1201 although not an essential ingredient.2R v McCreadie and Tume, 96 Cr App R 143, CA
•The evidence must identify the date or dates on which the alleged tampering occurred.
•Where a case is brought against more than one person in a household, or against a married couple, evidence is needed against all persons, not just one, to sustain a prosecution or conviction. It should be shown that:3R v Hoar  Crim LR 606
◦each person agreed to obtain electricity which would not be paid for; and
◦each of them knew the means to be adopted to achieve that end – namely tampering with the meter; and
◦one of them, to the knowledge of the other(s), who was ready to assist if needed, tampered with the meter so that electricity could be obtained without payment; and
◦each of them knew that electricity which had not been paid for, and which neither of them intended to pay for, was being used by them in their home.
If a supplier alleges that you are liable for theft or tampering, find out which legal provision it is relying on. Different considerations apply when dealing with different parts of the law. Normally the supplier will point to particular provisions in the Gas Act, Electricity Act or Utilities Act, as appropriate, but liability can also arise under general common law principles or under your contract with your supplier.