Theft from a shop or stall
Triable either way
Maximum: 7 years’ custody (except for an offence of low-value shoplifting which is treated as a summary only offence in accordance with section 22A of the Magistrates’ Courts Act 1980 where the maximum is 6 months’ custody)
Offence range: Discharge – 3 years’ custody
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 lists. 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
- Significant use or threat of force
- Offender subject to a banning order from the relevant store
- Child accompanying offender is actively used to facilitate the offence (not merely present when offence is committed)
B – Medium culpability
- A significant role where offending is part of a group activity
- Some degree of planning involved
- Limited use or threat of force
- 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
- Mental disorder/learning disability where linked to commission of the 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 financial loss that results from the theft and any significant additional harm suffered by the victim – examples of significant additional harm may include but are not limited to:
- Emotional distress
- Damage to property
- Effect on business
- A greater impact on the victim due to the size or type of their business
- A particularly vulnerable victim
Intended loss should be used where actual loss has been prevented.
- High value goods stolen (above £1,000) or
- Medium value with significant additional harm to the victim
- Medium value goods stolen (£200 to £1,000) and no significant additional harm or
- Low value with significant additional harm to the victim
- Low value goods stolen (up to £200) and
- Little or no significant additional harm to the victim
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.
Where the value greatly exceeds £1,000 it may be appropriate to move outside the identified range. Adjustment should be made for any significant additional harm where high value goods are stolen.
26 weeks’ custody
Medium level community order
Band C fine
12 weeks’ – 3 years’ custody
Low level community order – 26 weeks’ custody
Band B fine – Low level community order
12 weeks’ custody
Low level community order
Band B fine
High level community order – 26 weeks’ custody
Band C fine – Medium level community order
Band A fine – Band C fine
High level community order
Band C fine
Band A fine
Low level community order – 12 weeks’ custody
Band B fine – Low level community order
Discharge – Band B fine
|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|
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 Imposition of community and custodial sentences.
A suspended sentence MUST NOT be imposed as a more severe form of community order. A suspended sentence is a custodial sentence.
|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:
||Suitable requirements might include:
||Suitable requirements might include:
* If order does not contain a punitive requirement, suggested fine levels are indicated below:
BAND A FINE
BAND B FINE
BAND C FINE
Fuller information and sentencing flowcharts are available at Imposition of Community and Custodial Sentences definitive guideline.
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.
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.
Consecutive sentences for multiple offences may be appropriate – please refer to the Offences Taken Into Consideration and Totality guideline.
Previous diversionary work with an offender does not preclude the court from considering this type of sentencing option again if appropriate.
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
Relevant recent convictions may justify an upward adjustment, including outside the category range. In cases involving significant persistent offending, the community and custodial thresholds may be crossed even though the offence otherwise warrants a lesser sentence. Any custodial sentence must be kept to the necessary minimum
- 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
- Attempts to conceal/dispose of evidence
- Offender motivated by intention to cause harm or out of revenge
- Failure to comply with current court orders
- Offence committed on licence
- Offences taken into consideration
- 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 (where not linked tothe commission of the offence)
- Sole or primary carer for dependent relatives
- Determination and/or demonstration of steps having been taken to address addiction or offending behaviour
- Offender experiencing exceptional financial hardship
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
Step 3 – Consider any factors which indicate a reduction, such as assistance to the prosecution
The court should take into account sections 73 and 74 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (assistance by defendants: reduction or review of sentence) and any other rule of law by virtue of which an offender may receive a discounted sentence in consequence of assistance given (or offered) to the prosecutor or investigator.
Step 4 – Reduction for guilty pleas
The court should take account of any potential reduction for a guilty plea in accordance with section 144 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 and the guideline for Reduction in Sentence for a Guilty Plea (where first hearing is on or after 1 June 2017, or first hearing before 1 June 2017).
Step 5 – Totality principle
If sentencing an offender for more than one offence, or where the offender is already serving a sentence, consider whether the total sentence is just and proportionate to the offending behaviour.
Step 6 – Confiscation, compensation and ancillary orders
The court must proceed with a view to making a confiscation order if it is asked to do so by the prosecutor or if the court believes it is appropriate for it to do so.
Where the offence has resulted in loss or damage the court must consider whether to make a compensation order.
If the court makes both a confiscation order and an order for compensation and the court believes the offender will not have sufficient means to satisfy both orders in full, the court must direct that the compensation be paid out of sums recovered under the confiscation order (section 13 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002).
The court may also consider whether to make ancillary orders. These may include a deprivation order, or a restitution order.
- Ancillary orders – Magistrates’ Court
- Ancillary orders – Crown Court Compendium, Part II Sentencing, s7
Step 7 – Reasons
Section 174 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 imposes a duty to give reasons for, and explain the effect of, the sentence.
Step 8 – Consideration for time spent on bail
The court must consider whether to give credit for time spent on bail in accordance with section 240A of the Criminal Justice Act 2003.