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Criminal law: Burglary crime sentencing to be reviewed based on victim harm

New burglary sentencing guidelines are to be introduced that will encourage judges and magistrates to take into account not only the defendant's culpability but also the affect of the crime on its victims.

The Sentencing Council for England and Wales has proposed having a range of sentences of different severity depending on the intent and impact of the crime.

For example, in a case of non-domestic burglary in which no victim was harmed, entry was not forced and low-value goods were taken, a community sentence would be more appropriate than a jail term.

Domestic burglary, which currently carries a sentence of up to four years in jail, could now result in a six-year jail term under the proposed guidelines.

However, in cases of aggravated burglary when a weapon has been used and when victims have been greatly harmed the sentence could be as much as a 13-year jail term.

Figures for 2009 showed that 17,387 burglars were sentenced and of these cases, 9,760 were for domestic burglary, 7,452 were non-domestic burglary and 265 were aggravated burglary.

While the Sentencing Council does not believe that the new guidelines would reduce the amount of burglary convictions or the length of sentences, it aims to make sentencing more consistent and more relevant to victims.

Council chairman Lord Justice Leveson said that since burglary can have a "very serious impact on victims" it is important that the feelings of victims be "at the centre of considerations about what sentence should be passed on a burglar".

Related links:
Read more on this story (BBC)
Learn ways to protect yourself from burglary (FindLaw)
Find a local criminal solicitor in an area near you (FindLaw)