Theft Offences Guideline

Closed 26 Jun 2014

Opened 3 Apr 2014


The Sentencing Council is updating guidance for courts so that all theft offences are covered by a consistent set of guidelines.

Theft Offences Guideline Consultation (PDF)

The Council is seeking the views of as many people as possible interested in the sentencing of theft offences, particularly in respect of:

  • the principal factors that make any of the offences included within the draft guideline more or less serious;
  • the additional factors that should influence the sentence;
  • the approach taken to structuring the draft guidelines;
  • the types and lengths of sentences that should be passed for theft offences; and
  • anything else that you think should be considered.

The Council is not consulting on the legislation; this is a matter for Parliament and outside the scope of this consultation.

Which offences are covered by this guideline?

The new definitive theft guideline will contain guidance for:

  • theft from a shop or stall;
  • general theft offences including theft from the person, theft in breach of trust, theft in a dwelling, theft of a motor vehicle, theft from a motor vehicle and theft of a pedal cycle;
  • abstracting electricity;
  • making off without payment
  • handling stolen goods; and
  • going equipped for theft or burglary.

Which offences are not covered by this guideline?

  • taking a motor vehicle without consent
  • aggravated vehicle taking causing damage, injury, or death

Although these are charged under the Theft Act as they are, in part, acquisitive crimes the chief harm arises from the manner of driving and the consequent damage to the vehicle/property or injury caused.

The sanctions for these offences can therefore be different for other theft offences; for example, including disqualification from driving. The Council intends to start work on a new motoring guideline in 2015, subject to any legislative changes, and has decided to consider these offences within that guideline.

In the intervening period guidance within the Magistrates’ Courts Sentencing guidelines (MCSG) for these offences will continue to apply.

Metal theft

The Council decided not to prepare a separate guideline for metal theft. There is evidence to suggest that levels of metal thefts are dropping; statistics published by the Home Office show that in the financial year ending March 2013, metal theft offences reduced by 40%.

Guidance for such offences will be contained within the individual guidelines for general theft, handling stolen goods, and ‘going equipped’ offences. The impact of metal thefts will be reflected at step one, as a key driver of the sentencing starting point, in the consideration of harm.

Where, for example, ‘disruption is caused to infrastructure’ or there is ‘damage to heritage structures’ as a result of metal theft, the court should consider whether to increase the sentence either within the sentencing range or sentence outside the range.             

What else is happening as part of the consultation process?

During this 12 week consultation the Council will host a number of consultation events to seek views from criminal justice organisations, other groups with an interest in this area as well as from sentencers.

We will also be conducting interviews with a sample of Crown Court judges, District Judges and magistrates to ascertain how they would apply the guideline and to identify whether the guideline presents any practical difficulties for sentencers.

Once the consultation exercise is over and the results considered, a final guideline will be published and used by all adult courts.

If you would to like take part in one of our consultation events please email


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