Courts have today received comprehensive sentencing guidance for all theft offences for the first time.

The Sentencing Council said it did not set out to change overall sentencing levels with its new definitive guidelines, ‘but rather to provide comprehensive guidance and introduce a standard approach to sentencing, ensuring that certain factors are always taken into account’.

The guidelines, it added, will ‘bring a clear focus on the impact of thefts on victims beyond financial loss’.

Last year more than 91,000 offenders were sentenced for theft offences. But until now, the council said, some common types of theft such as theft of a motor vehicle or bicycle, had to be sentenced using guidelines for similar offences.

The guidelines were introduced following a public consultation. The council said respondents strongly supported its decision to consider the wider impact of thefts on victims, but suggested that the process for conducting the assessment of harm could be clearer. 

The guidelines also set out for the first time that if a theft causes damage to ‘our heritage’ this can make an offence more serious. This could include damage to war memorials when thieves steal metal plaques, as well as the theft of historic artefacts, it said.

Richard Monkhouse (pictured), national chair of the Magistrates’ Association, said: ‘On behalf of magistrates, we welcome this comprehensive and detailed guidance that will help our members sentence each offender as effectively as possible in our attempts to reduce reoffending and taking into account all relevant factors.’