Making Off Without Payment

Theft Act 1978, s.3
Effective from: 01 February 2016

Triable either way

Maximum: 2 years’ custody

Offence range: Discharge – 36 weeks’ custody

User guide for this offence


In accordance with section 120 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009, the Sentencing Council issues this definitive guideline. It applies to all offenders aged 18 and older, who are sentenced on or after 1 February 2016, regardless of the date of the offence.

Section 125(1) of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 provides that when sentencing offences committed after 6 April 2010:

“Every court –
(a) must, in sentencing an offender, follow any sentencing guidelines which are relevant to the offender’s case,
(b) must, in exercising any other function relating to the sentencing of offenders, follow any sentencing guidelines which are relevant to the exercise of the function, unless the court is satisfied that it would be contrary to the interests of justice to do so.”

This guideline applies only to offenders aged 18 and older. General principles to be considered in the sentencing of youths are in the Sentencing Guidelines Council’s definitive guideline, Overarching Principles – Sentencing Youths.

Structure, ranges and starting points

For the purposes of section 125(3)–(4) of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009, the guideline specifies offence ranges – the range of sentences appropriate for each type of offence. Within each offence, the Council has specified a number of categories which reflect varying degrees of seriousness. The offence range is split into category ranges – sentences appropriate for each level of seriousness. The Council has also identified a starting point within each category.

Starting points define the position within a category range from which to start calculating the provisional sentence. The court should consider further features of the offence or the offender that warrant adjustment of the sentence within the range, including the aggravating and mitigating factors set out at step two. Starting points and ranges apply to all offenders, whether they have pleaded guilty or been convicted after trial. Credit for a guilty plea is taken into consideration only at step four in the decision making process, after the appropriate sentence has been identified.

Step 1- Determining the offence category

The court should determine the offence category with reference only to the factors identified in the following tables. In order to determine the category the court should assess culpability and harm. The level of culpability is determined by weighing up all the factors of the case to determine the offender’s role and the extent to which the offending was planned and the sophistication with which it was carried out.

CULPABILITY demonstrated by one or more of the following:

A – High culpability

  • A leading role where offending is part of a group activity
  • Involvement of others through coercion, intimidation or exploitation
  • Sophisticated nature of offence/significant planning
  • Offence involving intimidation or the use or threat of force
  • Deliberately targeting victim on basis of vulnerability

B – Medium culpability

  • A significant role where offending is part of a group activity
  • Some degree of planning involved
  • All other cases where characteristics for categories A or C are not present

C – Lesser culpability

  • Performed limited function under direction
  • Involved through coercion, intimidation or exploitation
  • Little or no planning
  • Limited awareness or understanding of offence

Where there are characteristics present which fall under different levels of culpability, the court should balance these characteristics to reach a fair assessment of the offender’s culpability.


Harm is assessed by reference to the actual loss that results from the offence and any significant additional harm suffered by the victim – examples of additional harm may include but are not limited to:

  • A high level of inconvenience caused to the victim
  • Emotional distress
  • Fear/loss of confidence caused by the crime
  • A greater impact on the victim due to the size or type of their business

Category 1  

  • Goods or services obtained above £200 or
  • Goods/services up to £200 with significant additional harm to the victim

Category 2

  • Goods or services obtained up to £200 and
  • Little or no significant additional harm to the victim