Riot burglars face longer in jail under new guidelines

Emergency services in Tottenham, north London Sentences handed down following August's riots have attracted controversy

Burglars who break into homes or businesses during any future riots could face longer prison sentences under new guidelines issued to judges.

The Sentencing Council for England and Wales said recent disturbances had influenced new national guidelines on prison terms for burglars.

The body said judges had been broadly getting burglary jail terms right.

The new guidelines for magistrates and crown courts will apply to sentences handed down from mid-January 2012.

The council, which is charged with promoting consistency and transparency in sentencing, said jail terms should reflect the harm inflicted upon the victim rather than just the blame that can be attached to the offender.

But in the incoming guidelines, it also said that public disorder should be a relevant sentencing factor for judges if wider events play a part in somebody's decision to break into a property.

"Although the consultation closed before the disturbances in England in August, and responses did not therefore reference these events, the definitive guideline does take these events into consideration," said the council.

"The council recognises the damage caused and consequences of such events, especially for small businesses and shop owners living above or near premises, and has therefore included the context of general public disorder as a factor indicating greater harm caused in any burglary offence."

Serious impact

The chairman of the Sentencing Council, Lord Justice Leveson, is among the three Court of Appeal judges who will rule on whether looters have received appropriate sentences for their part in the August disorder.

Lord Justice Hughes, deputy chairman of the Sentencing Council, said: "Burglary is often not simply a crime against property but may have a serious impact on people whose houses or businesses are invaded.

"Those who burgle people's houses will normally go to prison."

The council had initially proposed restricting the sentencing range for non-domestic burglaries to between one and four years, reflecting the practice in most cases.

However, it said it had set the upper limit at five years based on responses to the consultation.

The guidelines say that burglars who use a weapon will always receive a custodial sentence which can reach 13 years.

Other burglars who break into homes should expect sentences up to six years - two years higher than previously proposed.

Judges should take into account the effect on the victim, such as where a householder is terrified to be in their own home after a break-in.

Although the guidelines set out detailed scenarios for judges and magistrates to follow, they are not absolute.

Criminals can be sentenced outside of the ranges in the guidelines where the court believes it is in the interests of justice to do so.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 460.

    This is good news. The hardened criminal mentors the next generation by telling them that you will not get a big sentance as the prisons are full and it costs £40,000 pa to keep you in prison.

    If sentences were bigger the deterent would lead to a reduction in the prison population.

  • rate this

    Comment number 430.

    I note the comments about youngsters having nothing to look forward to. The people they have hurt are people who have little themselves. Not all of the rioters were youngsters. I recall someone in their 50s being arrested. Some of them had good jobs. There were some terribly violent attacks on people (fire extinguisher fired in someone's face, people run over). There can be no excuse for these.

  • rate this

    Comment number 426.

    Generally tariffs for crimes such as burglary are to low, this is a premeditated crime which causes imense distress to those targetted. The system als alows criminals to confess to multiple crimes and only server a sentence for a single one. In these cases tariffs should be serverd consecutively not concurrently, if prison over crowding is a problem build more.

  • rate this

    Comment number 355.

    The youths my local park look like something from an anthropological experiment. We have created an inferior sub-culture, if not sub-species. We have achieved this by progressively lowering the standards we expect from them, with no penalty for falling short. Indeed, “Gangsta” culture provides a framework of rewards for transgressive behaviour.

    Reward good. Punish bad. And do both mightily.

  • rate this

    Comment number 294.

    Can i just point out yet again, that more adults were convicted than young people , i am 18 and i had nothing to do with these riots. But round London we all seem to be getting blamed, and looked down on.

    Stop blaming all of the Young People if you payed attention you would understadn that alot of Young people ( more than adults ) helpd with the clear up.


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