Monday, 13 September 2010

Burglary: undue leniency and policing cuts

The latest sentencing statistics available are for 2008 and may be accessed on the Ministry of Justice website - here.  

The Telegraph 11th September said - "Revealed: not a single burglar gets maximum jail sentence".    The maximum sentence for burglary of a dwelling is 14 years and for other premises is 10 years - see here.

Where the offender is guilty of a third domestic burglary, then there may be a minimum sentence of 3 years but this can be quite readily avoided since the Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000 s.111 gives the judge a considerable discretion based on particular circumstances relating to the the offence or to the offender - see here.  It appears that, in 2008, there were 611 offenders in this category.  Only 145 of them received in excess of 3 years. 

The Court of Appeal recently set out new sentencing guidance in R v Saw [2009] EWCA Crim 1  Obviously, any effect of this judgment could not be reflected in the 2008 figures.  The Lord Chief Justice said - "The starting point must always - we emphasise, always - be that burglary of a home is a serious criminal offence,  The principle which must be grasped is that when we speak of dwelling house burglary, we are considering not only an offence against property, which it is, but also, and often more alarmingly and distressingly, an offence againts the person".  

Those who argue for more lenient sentencing often make the point that it is "being caught" which is the principal deterrent.  Against that, it could be argued that the chances of being caught are likely to reduced if, due to financial pressures for cuts in services, there are fewer front-line Police Officers.  Does this not make it even more important that those convicted of burglary face very tough sentencing?  See BBC 10th September and  London Evening Standard 10th September and Manchester Evening News 11th September.

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