Burglary offences: new sentencing guidelines published
Revised sentencing guidelines for domestic, non-domestic and aggravated burglary offences in England and Wales, which come into effect on 1 July 2022, were published yesterday by the Sentencing Council following consultation.
The revised guidelines follow the newer stepped format of more recent guidelines issued by the Council and introduce new middle categories for both culpability and harm factors. This gives sentencers greater flexibility and reflects the full range and seriousness of offences that come to court.
The Council has made a number of changes to culpability and harm factors across all guidelines, in response to feedback from the consultation and testing with judges and magistrates. The changes ensure that the harm factors fully reflect the distress suffered by burglary victims.
Sentencing Council member, Her Honour Judge Rebecca Crane, said:
“Burglary has a big impact on victims, often so much more than just a theft of property, especially when it occurs in a victim’s home, a sanctuary where they are entitled to feel safe.
“As a result of feedback from the consultation we have made changes to the assessment of harm to help courts better assess the impact of these offences on victims.
“We have also updated the format of the guidelines to introduce new middle categories for our culpability and harm factors, which give judges and magistrates greater flexibility in sentencing.”
Val Castell, chair of the Magistrates’ Association’s adult court committee, said:
“The Magistrates’ Association welcomes the revision to this guideline – the latest in a concerted effort underway since 2012 to improve the style and functionality of sentencing guidelines. In particular, we believe that introducing a middle category for both culpability and harm will assist magistrates with assessing the appropriate starting point for sentencing.
“We are also pleased that the guideline now better reflects the levels and types of emotional impact that can result from a burglary offence. This will provide magistrates with additional clarity when assessing the harm caused by crime.”
The revision of the guidelines follows an evaluation of the current guidelines, which were published in 2012 and were among the earliest guidelines the Council produced. That evaluation found that, following implementation of the guidelines, sentences increased for non-domestic burglary above our predictions.
Prior to consultation, the Council considered the available evidence relating to the increase in sentence severity and felt that, although the increases were above our predictions at the time, sentencing practice was proportionate to the seriousness of the offences that appeared before the courts. The revised guideline therefore was not intended to change sentences from their current levels.
After considering the range of views offered in the responses to our consultation, the Council remains of the view that this is the correct approach and therefore has not significantly altered sentence ranges from those that were consulted upon.
Notes to editors
- The Sentencing Council’s definitive guidelines for burglary offences were the second set of guidelines developed by the Sentencing Council and came into force in 2012.
- They include guidelines for sentencing aggravated burglary (section 10, Theft Act 1968), domestic and non-domestic burglary (both section 9, Theft Act 1968).
- Burglary means illegally entering a property in order to steal property from it.
- This is different from robbery and theft: robbery is when an offender steals from a person using force or makes them think force will be used. Theft means taking someone’s property but does not involve the use of force. There are separate guidelines for theft and robbery offences, this consultation relates only to new burglary guidelines.
- Aggravated burglary is when a burglary is committed and the offender has with them a firearm, imitation firearm, explosive or any weapon of offence (any article made or adapted for use for causing injury to or incapacitating a person, or intended by the person having it with him for such use). Domestic burglaries are ones that take place in buildings people live in; non-domestic burglaries take place in buildings not lived in (offices etc).
- When the existing guidelines came into force in 2012, they were not expected to result in any change in sentencing severity: the resource assessment which had been carried out, using the data and evidence that were available at that time, had concluded that sentencing was likely to stay at the existing levels.
- However, the evaluation of the impact of the guidelines found that sentences increased unexpectedly for non-domestic burglary when that guideline came into force. At the time of the original resource assessment (which was only the second the Council had prepared), the Council’s methods for estimating the resource impact of a guideline were less well-developed than they are today. The Council was therefore limited in its ability to assess how offences would be categorised and sentenced under the guideline.
- In developing these new guidelines, the Council has considered the evidence as to the reasons for the observed increases in sentencing severity. The evidence has helped the Council to understand the details of the offences sentenced under the existing guidelines and the sentences imposed. This has led the Council to the conclusion that although the aggregate impact of the guidelines on sentencing outcomes was not predicted, sentencing practice is proportionate to the seriousness of the offences in individual cases. This means that the higher sentences under the existing guidelines are expected to be maintained for the more serious offences.
- All new sentencing guidelines follow more recent Council guideline models and include a stepped approach to sentencing.
- Sentencing guidelines must be followed, unless the court is satisfied that it would be contrary to the interest of justice to do so in all the circumstances of a particular case.
- Guidelines set sentencing ranges within the maximum for the offence as set out in current legislation. The guidelines are intended to reflect current sentencing practice for these offences.
- The Sentencing Council was established by Parliament to be an independent body, but accountable to Parliament for its work which is scrutinised by the Justice Select Committee. Justice Ministers are accountable to Parliament for the Sentencing Council’s effectiveness and efficiency, for its use of public funds and for protecting its independence. Judicial Council members are appointed by the Lord Chief Justice with the agreement of the Lord Chancellor. Non-judicial council members are appointed by the Lord Chancellor with the agreement of the Lord Chief Justice.
- For more information, please contact Kathryn Montague, Sentencing Council Press Office, on 020 7071 5792 / 5788 / 07912301657.
- The Magistrates’ Association is a national charity and the membership body for the magistracy. With more than 12,000 members across England and Wales, it is a unique source of information and insight, and the only independent voice of the magistracy. For more information, please contact Alexandra Chitty on email@example.com.
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