2 Theft - general

Theft Act 1968, s.1
Effective from: 01 February 2016

Step 2 – Starting point and category range

Having determined the category at step one, the court should use the starting point to reach a sentence within the appropriate category range in the table below. The starting point applies to all offenders irrespective of plea or previous convictions.

Harm Culpability
  A B C

Category 1

Adjustment should be made for any significant additional harm factors where very high value goods are stolen.

Starting point

3 years 6 months’ custody

Category range

2 years 6 months’ – 6 years’ custody

Starting point

2 years’ custody

Category range

1 – 3 years 6 months’ custody

Starting point

1 year’s custody

Category range

26 weeks’ – 2 years’ custody

 Category 2

Starting point

2 years’ custody

Category range

1 – 3 years 6 months’ custody

Starting point

1 year’s custody

Category range

26 weeks’ – 2 years’ custody

Starting point

High level community order

Category range

Low level community order – 36 weeks’ custody

 Category 3

Starting point

1 year’s custody

Category range

26 weeks’ – 2 years’ custody

Starting point

High level community order

Category range

Low level community order – 36 weeks’ custody

Starting point

Band C fine

Category range

Band B fine – Low level community order

 Category 4

Starting point

High level community order

Category range

Medium level community order – 36 weeks’ custody

Starting point

Low level community order

Category range

Band C fine – Medium level community order

Starting point

Band B fine

Category range

Discharge – Band C fine

The table above refers to single offences. Where there are multiple offences, consecutive sentences may be appropriate: please refer to the Offences Taken Into Consideration and Totality guideline. Where multiple offences are committed in circumstances which justify consecutive sentences, and the total amount stolen is in excess of £1 million, then an aggregate sentence in excess of seven years may be appropriate.

Band ranges
Starting point Range
Fine Band A  50% of relevant weekly income  25 – 75% of relevant weekly income
Fine Band B  100% of relevant weekly income  75 – 125% of relevant weekly income
Fine Band C  150% of relevant weekly income 125 – 175% of relevant weekly income
Fine Band D  250% of relevant weekly income 200 – 300% of relevant weekly income
Fine Band E 400% of relevant weekly income 300 – 500% of relevant weekly income
Fine Band F  600% of relevant weekly income  500 – 700% of relevant weekly income
Community orders table

The seriousness of the offence should be the initial factor in determining which requirements to include in a community order. Offence-specific guidelines refer to three sentencing levels within the community order band based on offence seriousness (low, medium and high). See below for non-exhaustive examples of requirements that might be appropriate in each.

At least one requirement MUST be imposed for the purpose of punishment and/or a fine imposed in addition to the community order unless there are exceptional circumstances which relate to the offence or the offender that would make it unjust in all the circumstances to do so. For further information see the Imposition guideline.

A suspended sentence MUST NOT be imposed as a more severe form of community order. A suspended sentence is a custodial sentence.

Low

Medium

High

Offences only just cross community order threshold, where the seriousness of the offence or the nature of the offender’s record means that a discharge or fine is inappropriate

In general, only one requirement will be appropriate and the length may be curtailed if additional requirements are necessary

Offences that obviously fall within the community order band

Offences only just fall below the custody threshold or the custody threshold is crossed but a community order is more appropriate in the circumstances

More intensive sentences which combine two or more requirements may be appropriate

Suitable requirements might include:

  • Any appropriate rehabilitative requirement(s)
  • 40 – 80 hours of unpaid work
  • Curfew requirement for example up to 16 hours per day for a few weeks
  • Exclusion requirement, for a few months
  • Prohibited activity requirement
  • Attendance centre requirement (where available)

Suitable requirements might include:

  • Any appropriate rehabilitative requirement(s)
  •  80 – 150 hours of unpaid work
  • Curfew requirement for example up to 16 hours for 2 – 3 months
  • Exclusion requirement lasting in the region of 6 months
  • Prohibited activity requirement

 

Suitable requirements might include:

  • Any appropriate rehabilitative requirement(s)
  • 150 – 300 hours of unpaid work
  • Curfew requirement for example up to 16 hours per day for 4 – 12 months
  • Exclusion requirement lasting in the region of 12 months

* If order does not contain a punitive requirement, suggested fine levels are indicated below:

BAND A FINE

BAND B FINE

BAND C FINE

Custodial sentences

The approach to the imposition of a custodial sentence should be as follows:

1) Has the custody threshold been passed?

  • A custodial sentence must not be imposed unless the offence or the combination of the offence and one or more offences associated with it was so serious that neither a fine alone nor a community sentence can be justified for the offence.
  • There is no general definition of where the custody threshold lies. The circumstances of the individual offence and the factors assessed by offence-specific guidelines will determine whether an offence is so serious that neither a fine alone nor a community sentence can be justified. Where no offence specific guideline is available to determine seriousness, the harm caused by the offence, the culpability of the offender and any previous convictions will be relevant to the assessment.
  • The clear intention of the threshold test is to reserve prison as a punishment for the most serious offences.

2) Is it unavoidable that a sentence of imprisonment be imposed?

  • Passing the custody threshold does not mean that a custodial sentence should be deemed inevitable. Custody should not be imposed where a community order could provide sufficient restriction on an offender’s liberty (by way of punishment) while addressing the rehabilitation of the offender to prevent future crime.
  • For offenders on the cusp of custody, imprisonment should not be imposed where there would be an impact on dependants which would make a custodial sentence disproportionate to achieving the aims of sentencing.

3) What is the shortest term commensurate with the seriousness of the offence?

  • In considering this the court must NOT consider any licence or post sentence supervision requirements which may subsequently be imposed upon the offender’s release.

4) Can the sentence be suspended?

  • A suspended sentence MUST NOT be imposed as a more severe form of community order. A suspended sentence is a custodial sentence. Sentencers should be clear that they would impose an immediate custodial sentence if the power to suspend were not available. If not, a non-custodial sentence should be imposed.

The following factors should be weighed in considering whether it is possible to suspend the sentence:

Factors indicating that it would not be appropriate to suspend a custodial sentence

Factors indicating that it may be appropriate to suspend a custodial sentence

Offender presents a risk/danger to the public

Realistic prospect of rehabilitation

Appropriate punishment can only be achieved by immediate custody

Strong personal mitigation

History of poor compliance with court orders

Immediate custody will result in significant harmful impact upon others

The imposition of a custodial sentence is both punishment and a deterrent. To ensure that the overall terms of the suspended sentence are commensurate with offence seriousness, care must be taken to ensure requirements imposed are not excessive. A court wishing to impose onerous or intensive requirements should reconsider whether a community sentence might be more appropriate.

Pre-sentence report

Whenever the court reaches the provisional view that:

  • the custody threshold has been passed; and, if so
  • the length of imprisonment which represents the shortest term commensurate with the seriousness of the offence;

the court should obtain a pre-sentence report, whether verbal or written, unless the court considers a report to be unnecessary. Ideally a pre-sentence report should be completed on the same day to avoid adjourning the case.

Magistrates: Consult your legal adviser before deciding to sentence to custody without a pre-sentence report.

For further information and sentencing flowcharts see the Imposition guideline.

Where the offender is dependent on or has a propensity to misuse drugs or alcohol and there is sufficient prospect of success, a community order with a drug rehabilitation requirement under section 209, or an alcohol treatment requirement under section 212 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 may be a proper alternative to a short or moderate custodial sentence.

Where the offender suffers from a medical condition that is susceptible to treatment but does not warrant detention under a hospital order, a community order with a mental health treatment requirement under section 207 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 may be a proper alternative to a short or moderate custodial sentence.

The court should then consider further adjustment for any aggravating or mitigating factors. The following is a  non-exhaustive list of additional factual elements providing the context of the offence and factors relating to the offender. Identify whether any combination of these, or other relevant factors, should result in an upward or downward adjustment from the sentence arrived at so far.

Factors increasing seriousness

Statutory aggravating factors

  • Previous convictions, having regard to a) the nature of the offence to which the conviction relates and its relevance to the current offence; and b) the time that has elapsed since the conviction
  • Offence committed whilst on bail
  • Offence motivated by, or demonstrating hostility based on any of the following characteristics or presumed characteristics of the victim: religion, race, disability, sexual orientation or transgender identity

Other aggravating factors

  • Stealing goods to order
  • Steps taken to prevent the victim reporting or obtaining assistance and/or from assisting or supporting the prosecution
  • Offender motivated by intention to cause harm or out of revenge
  • Offence committed over sustained period of time
  • Attempts to conceal/dispose of evidence
  • Failure to comply with current court orders
  • Offence committed on licence
  • Offences taken into consideration
  • Blame wrongly placed on others
  • Established evidence of community/wider impact (for issues other than prevalence)
  • Prevalence – see below

Factors reducing seriousness or reflecting personal mitigation

  • No previous convictions or no relevant/recent convictions
  • Remorse, particularly where evidenced by voluntary reparation to the victim
  • Good character and/or exemplary conduct
  • Serious medical condition requiring urgent, intensive or long-term treatment
  • Age and/or lack of maturity where it affects the responsibility of the offender
  • Mental disorder or learning disability
  • Sole or primary carer for dependent relatives
  • Determination and/or demonstration of steps having been taken to address addiction or offending behaviour
  • Inappropriate degree of trust or responsibility

Prevalence

There may be exceptional local circumstances that arise which may lead a court to decide that prevalence should influence sentencing levels. The pivotal issue in such cases will be the harm caused to the community. It is essential that the court before taking account of prevalence:

  • has supporting evidence from an external source, for example, Community Impact Statements, to justify claims that a particular crime is prevalent in their area, and is causing particular harm in that community, and
  • is satisfied that there is a compelling need to treat the offence more seriously than elsewhere.