The final phase of data collection for theft offences

By Lauren Bowes, Senior Researcher

From the 19th September to December 2016, the Sentencing Council will begin the final phase of a data collection exercise for the offence of theft from a shop or stall, across 80 magistrates’ courts in England and Wales. Magistrates and district judges will fill out a form every time they sentence a shop theft offence, telling us about how they have arrived at that sentence.

This project is the first time we have collected comprehensive information to examine the effects of sentencing guidelines in the magistrates’ court and we are very grateful to all the magistrates, district judges and court staff in these courts for their help.

At the Sentencing Council it is important for us to evaluate the effects of the guidelines once they are in force to identify any unanticipated consequences or any areas where guidelines are not being implemented as anticipated. In this way, we ensure that guidelines promote fair, proportionate and consistent sentencing.

The data will help us to assess the impact of the new theft sentencing guideline, which came into effect earlier this year. Our analysis uses a ‘before’ and ‘after’ design: data collected since the guideline came into effect will be compared with data collected before it came into force, to see how sentencing behaviour has, or hasn’t, changed since the introduction of the guideline. The work will enable the Council to gauge whether any aspects of the guideline need to be considered for revision.

The findings from this data collection exercise will be published in 2017. If you haven’t already seen it, please take a look at our evaluation of the assault guideline, which gives you further insight into how we evaluate our guidelines: /publications/?type=publications&cat=guideline-assessment&s&topic=assault

We are very grateful to everyone who is filling out forms for us. If you have any questions regarding this exercise, please contact us at or our contractor RAND Europe at