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.”