9 December 2008 SGC 0708 Council Publishes New Guidelines for by luckboy


9 December 2008 SGC 0708 Council Publishes New Guidelines for

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									9 December 2008

SGC 07/08

Council Publishes New Guidelines for Judges and Magistrates on Theft, Burglary (non-dwelling) and Breach of ASBOs The Sentencing Guidelines Council published two definitive guidelines today, which together cover theft and burglary from a non-dwelling and breach of an anti-social behaviour order.

Guideline on Theft and Burglary (non-dwelling) The guideline on theft and burglary (non-dwelling) covers four forms of theft: theft from a shop, theft in breach of trust, theft from the person and theft in a dwelling. It also sets out principles of general application to assist where a court is sentencing for a form of theft not covered by a specific guideline, such as stealing petrol or scrap metal and thefts from garden sheds and out-buildings. The guideline also covers burglary in a building other than a dwelling – burglary in a dwelling is subject to separate guidance (see notes to editors below). The offences covered in the guideline are generally categorised as offences of dishonesty rather than offences of violence. For example, theft from a person can involve ‘pickpocketing’ or ‘bag snatching’. Where violence or the threat of violence is involved, the offence is normally charged as robbery which is covered by a separate guideline, published in 2006. A fine should be the starting point for the first-time opportunist thief who steals from a shop on impulse. Where thieves target small independent retailers this will be an aggravating feature and will be likely to attract a higher sentence. Previous convictions generally make an offence more serious. Persistent shoplifters will face a community or custodial sentence even if the other characteristics of the specific offence would otherwise warrant a lesser penalty. The starting point for members of organised shoplifting gangs who intimidate their victims or use or threaten force is 12 months custody. 1

In other cases, where a thief steals from vulnerable victims such as the elderly, young or disabled, even if a first time offender, the starting point is a custodial sentence. If the property has high sentimental value to the victim or the items stolen are worth more than £2,000 the sentence is likely to be higher. Where the theft does not involve a vulnerable victim and there are no other aggravating factors, the starting point for a first time offender will normally be a medium-level community order. The Council has also considered how to deal with offenders with drug or drink addictions. Council member Judge Peter Beaumont QC said: “The guideline recognises that many offenders who commit acquisitive crimes are motivated by an addiction – they steal to feed their habits. “This does not make the offence any less serious, but it may be relevant to the choice of sentence. In particular, the court might decide to give a suspended custodial sentence or a community sentence linked to a requirement to participate in a drug or alcohol treatment programme. “Our emphasis is that this approach may be appropriate in order to break the cycle of addiction and offending – a result which would benefit the community. Attendance for treatment would be a condition of the order and breach could have serious consequences.” Fellow Council member and magistrate Malathy Sitaram said: “This guideline will be extremely helpful for magistrates, much of whose workloads involve cases of theft, especially theft from shops. “We have responded to those who made a strong case about the impact of shoplifting on small shopkeepers by recognising that offenders who target small independent retailers may cause a greater level of harm which should be taken into account. “The guideline also makes it clear that persistent shoplifters will face a community or custodial sentence.”

Guideline on Breach of an Anti-Social Behaviour Order The Council has also published guidance on sentencing for first time breaches of anti-social behaviour orders (ASBOs) – largely dealt with in magistrates’ courts. Council member Anthony Edwards said: “The Council explains in this guideline that the orders are imposed to protect individuals and the wider


public and that, when an order is breached, the aim of sentencing should be to ensure that the original purpose of the order is achieved. “Sentences should primarily reflect the level of harassment, alarm or distress caused by the breach.” The starting point for breach of an ASBO by an adult is a low-level community sentence, with the starting point for the most serious cases increasing to 26 weeks’ imprisonment. Young offenders who are convicted of a first breach after trial are likely to receive a community sentence in most cases. However, custody may be appropriate where the breach involves serious harassment or distress or where there are repeated breaches.

Notes to editors: The definitive guidelines are available on the SGC website (www.sentencing-guidelines.gov.uk) along with a summary of consultation responses to the Council. Printed copies may be obtained from: the Sentencing Guidelines Secretariat, 4th Floor, 8-10 Great George Street, London SW1P 3AE (tel: 020 7084 8130). Further information about the Council and Panel can be found at http://www.sentencing-guidelines.gov.uk/about/index.html. For further information about this press release and the guidelines, please contact the secretariat on 020 7084 8130 or 07515 359793. Burglary in a dwelling house is the subject of a guideline judgment from the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division). 1 The Court of Appeal has recently (on 1 December 2008) considered the existing guidelines on burglary in a dwelling, and its judgment is expected shortly. For further information about the Court of Appeal Criminal Division, please contact the Judicial Communications Office on 020 7073 4852. ENDS


McInerney v R [2002] EWCA Crim 3003.


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