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Victims central to new proposals for the sentencing of burglars
Today, the Sentencing Council is launching a three-month public consultation on its proposals to introduce a new guideline for judges and magistrates on the sentences for all offences which involve burglary.
The draft guideline reinforces current sentencing practice, which means that offenders committing domestic burglaries can expect a custodial sentence. It does not propose any reduction in sentences for burglars.
The proposals will bring burglary offences into a single guideline for Crown and magistrates’ courts in order to increase the consistency of sentencing across both courts.
It places a renewed emphasis on the impact of burglaries on victims, ensuring that they are of primary concern in the sentencing process. When sentencing burglars, therefore, the draft guideline asks judges to focus on the harm to the victim, as well as the culpability of the offender. For example, if a victim is at home when a burglary takes place or if significant trauma is experienced by the victim, the draft guideline directs the judge towards a more severe sentence.
Javed Khan, Chief Executive of Victim Support, said: “Last year we helped tens of thousands of people who were burgled so we know how traumatic it is to have your home broken into, your personal space invaded and your possessions stolen.
“Victims tell us that they want the impact of crime to be considered in sentencing and to be kept informed about what is going on. We are pleased that victims are being considered in these guidelines and hope they will make sentencing more transparent as well as strengthening the voice of victims by taking into account the impact of burglary.”
The Council’s proposals take into account research on the views of the public and victims on burglary which has shown that while many believe that those convicted of domestic burglary should generally receive a custodial sentence, they do not think this is appropriate in every case. It indicates that they want to see sentence ranges which allow the court enough flexibility to reflect the factors of the case and decide what sentence is most appropriate.
The draft guideline covers the offences of domestic burglary, non-domestic burglary and aggravated burglary.
- It reinforces the particularly serious nature of aggravated burglary - that is, where a burglar has a weapon - and proposes that the sentences for this offence are always custodial with a range of up to 13 years custody.
- It proposes that sentences should be up to six years for domestic burglary, taking a differing view to its predecessor body, the Sentencing Advisory Panel, which proposed a range of up to four years.
- It takes a new approach to non-domestic burglary, proposing more focus on harm to the victim beyond the economic implications of a burglary, and suggesting a range of up to four years. This is in line with how these kinds of burglaries are currently being sentenced in the courts.
Guidelines are intended to provide sentence ranges that cover the vast majority of cases that come before the courts. They do not, however, prevent judges and magistrates from sentencing offenders outside the ranges and up to the maximum sentences available in law where this allows an appropriate sentence to be given for a particular offence. The current statutory maximum sentences for burglary offences that judges can give are not, therefore, affected by the new draft guideline.
The Chairman of the Sentencing Council, Lord Justice Leveson, said:
“Burglary can have a very serious impact on victims – it is very far from being only a crime against property. As a result, we have ensured that the impact on victims is at the centre of considerations about what sentence should be passed on a burglar.
“The guideline does not reduce the severity of sentences being given to those convicted of burglary. Rather, it reinforces current sentencing practice that burglars targeting people’s homes can expect a custodial sentence.
“The consultation is open to everyone – we want both criminal justice professionals and members of the public to give their views about our proposals.”
Notes to editors
1. Responses to te consultation should be sent by 4 August 2011 to:
Office of the Sentencing Council
Steel House, 11 Tothill Street
London SW1H 9LJ
Tel: 020 3334 0475
Fax: 020 3334 0406
A professional consultation paper, shorter public consultation paper, resource assessment, equality impact assessment and an online questionnaire are available during this consultation period. These can be found at: www.sentencingcouncil.org.uk
2. The guideline will cover the following offences
Aggravated burglary – Theft Act 1968 (section 10)
This offence occurs when an offender commits any burglary and at the time has with him any firearm or imitation firearm, any weapon of offence or any explosive.
An offender can be sentenced to a maximum of life imprisonment for this offence.
Burglary of a dwelling – Theft Act 1968 (section 9)
(referred to in the draft guideline as Domestic Burglary)
This offence occurs when either;
a) an offender enters a dwelling as a trespasser intending to steal, inflict grievous bodily harm or doing unlawful damage to the building; or
b) the offender enters a dwelling as a trespasser and actually steals or attempts to steal anything in the dwelling, or inflicts or attempts to inflict grievous bodily harm.
The difference between these two forms is that in the first case the offence is committed as soon as the entry to the dwelling takes place and no theft or further offence needs to take place.
A dwelling is generally interpreted as a house or flat and may also include inhabited vessels or vehicles or a domestic outhouse or garage linked to the dwelling.
An offender can be sentenced to a maximum of 14 years imprisonment for this offence.
Burglary of premises other than a dwelling – Theft Act 1968 (section 9)
(referred to in the draft guideline as Non Domestic Burglary)
This offence occurs when either;
a) an offender enters a building as a trespasser intending to steal, inflict grievous bodily harm or doing unlawful damage to the building; or
b) the offender enters a building as a trespasser and actually steals or attempts to steal anything in the dwelling, or inflicts or attempts to inflict grievous bodily harm.
An offender can be sentenced to a maximum of 10 years imprisonment for this offence.
3. The Council has decided to develop this burglary guideline in order to respond to the Sentencing Advisory Panel’s (SAP) advice entitled Sentencing for Domestic Burglary* and so that it can bring the three burglary offences into a single guideline under a single approach.
4. The Sentencing Council was created by the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 to bring together the functions of the two previous bodies, the Sentencing Guidelines Council (SGC) and Sentencing Advisory Panel (SAP), which were disbanded. The Sentencing Council is a more streamlined body with a greater remit to take forward work on sentencing not only through improvements to guidelines but also through the development of a robust evidence base and engaging more with the public to improve understanding about sentences.
For more information, please contact Nick Mann, Sentencing Council press officer, on 020 3334 0631 / email