Sentences for theft vary from a conditional discharge to a prison sentence depending on the value of the theft and whether a defendant has any previous matters recorded against them. In the magistrates’ court the maximum sentence is 12 months imprisonment and 7 years in the crown court.
If there is breach of trust involved in the theft (eg theft from an employer) the offence will be viewed more seriously.
Going equipped for theft or burglary
It is an offence under s25 Theft Act 1968 for a person to have with them (except when they are at home) any item for use in the course of or in connection with any burglary or theft. This offence is commonly charged when someone is found in a retail area and has with them a foil-lined carrier bag and something capable of removing labels from clothing.
The maximum sentence for theft is 12 months imprisonment or 3 years in the crown court.
Motor vehicle interference
Under section 9 of the Criminal Attempts Act 1981, it is an offence to interfere with a motor vehicle or trailer or any of the contents with the intention of stealing the vehicle/ trailer or any of their contents or of taking the vehicle without the owner’s consent.
The maximum sentence is 3 months imprisonment in the magistrates’ court, although the more usual sentence is a financial penalty.
TWOC Offence – Taking without the owner’s consent
This offence occurs where someone takes a vehicle but there is no intention to keep it, so the offence falls short of being a theft. This offence is less common these days as so many vehicles have security systems fitted as standard. This is an offence that can only be heard in the magistrates’ court and carries a maximum sentence of 6 months imprisonment.
A more serious offence of aggravated vehicle taking is committed if having taken the vehicle without the owner’s consent, the vehicle is damaged or driven dangerously.
Handling stolen goods
This offence is committed when a person either receives, handles or assists in the retention of stolen goods. To be guilty of an offence of handling a person has to know or believe the goods were stolen.
The courts tend to treat these cases seriously on the basis that, without handlers there would be fewer thieves. The maximum sentence available in the magistrates’ court is 12 months imprisonment or 14 years in the crown court.
An offence of burglary is committed when a person either enters a property as a trespasser with an intention to steal, cause damage or inflict harm or, having entered a trespasser actually does steal, cause damage or inflict grievous bodily harm. The burglary of someone’s home is treated more seriously than the burglary of outbuildings or commercial premises.
This offence can be heard in either the magistrates’ court or the crown court but would usually be sent to the crown court where they have greater sentencing powers. If the burglary takes place in someone’s home and anyone in the home was subjected to violence or the threat of violence, then the case can only be dealt with in the crown court. Also, if the burglary is in a dwelling-house and the defendant is an adult with 2 previous convictions for burglary since 30 November 1999, then the case can also only be dealt with in the crown court because the “three strikes” provisions apply and the offender is at risk of receiving a mandatory minimum 3 year prison sentence.
In the magistrates’ court the maximum sentence is 6 months imprisonment (12 months for 2 or more offences) and 14 years in the crown court.
A person is guilty of aggravated burglary if he commits a burglary and has with him at the time a firearm, an imitation firearm, a weapon or any explosive.
Aggravated burglary is a very serious offence and one that carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. It is also an offence that is capable of triggering an extended sentence if the court is of the opinion that the offender poses a significant risk of causing serious harm to members of the public by committing further offences. It is commonplace for offenders charged with aggravated burglary to be remanded in custody pending trial.
An offence of robbery is committed where there is a theft and immediately before, or at the time of the theft, violence or the threat of violence is used. It is also an offence to assault someone with intent to rob them.
Robbery is what is known as an indictable only offence which means it can only be heard in the crown court (although the first appearance will still take place in the magistrates’ court). The maximum sentence for robbery is life imprisonment and the majority of people convicted of robbery receive a prison sentence.