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Published on:

9 June 2021

Plans to revise sentencing guidelines for domestic, non-domestic and aggravated burglary offences in England and Wales were published for consultation today by the Sentencing Council.

The proposed guidelines, which follow an evaluation of the existing definitive guidelines that came into force in 2012, introduce new middle categories for both culpability and harm factors, to allow judges and magistrates greater flexibility in deciding on an appropriate sentence.

In addition to responding to the findings of the evaluation, the Council will update the format of the guidelines to reflect the stepped approach used in recent sentencing guidelines and to make some minor changes to wording and placement of factors. The consultation will close on 1 September 2021.

Sentencing Council member, District Judge Mike Fanning, said:

“Burglary disrupts lives and businesses, and can cause tremendous anxiety to the victims of it. It is important that sentences reflect the seriousness of these offences.

“The proposed revised guidelines introduce a broader range of offence categories. Our aim is that judges and magistrates will more readily identify the appropriate sentence starting point, which they will then adjust to take into account the aggravating and mitigating factors specific to that case.

“We’re asking for feedback from anyone willing to respond to the consultation documents. We consider every response we receive, and the consultation phase is a vital part of the guideline preparation process – helping us to refine the final version.”

The proposed sentencing guidelines are for:

Mark Harrison, Head of Heritage Crime Strategy at Historic England, said:

“It is important that the Courts are aware of the significant harm and impact that burglary can cause to protected heritage sites and we welcome the review of the sentencing guidelines.

“The unlawful removal of property from within a historic site or building can have a serious impact on the morale and well-being of the owners and communities dedicated to their care and conservation.

“The loss of unique historic objects or features can also have far-reaching consequences over and above the property that has been taken, with irreplaceable items forming an important part of the fabric and traditions associated with a building.”

Vernon Rapley, Director of Cultural Heritage Protection and Security, Victoria & Albert Museum and Chair of the National Museum Security Group said:

“Whilst any burglary can cause lasting harm and damage to those directly affected by it, burglary of our museums, galleries and archives risks denuding our national treasures for future generations and threatens our local and national cultural heritage. 

“It is important that judges and magistrates have a broad range of sentencing categories to ensure that the sentences they pass reflect the true impact of the offence committed. I welcome this review of the sentencing guidelines for burglary.”

Notes to editors

  1. 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.
  2. They include guidelines for sentencing aggravated burglary (section 10, Theft Act 1968), domestic and non-domestic burglary (both section 9, Theft Act 1968).
  3. Burglary means illegally entering a property in order to steal property from it.
  4. 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.
  5. 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).
  6. 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. 
  7. However, the evaluations 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 guidelines.
  8. 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.
  9. All new sentencing guidelines follow more recent Council guideline models and include a stepped approach to sentencing.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.