The Sentencing Council has announced its proposals for a new sentencing guideline for theft offences, which covers a wide variety of theft including leaving a petrol station without paying, shop theft and stealing by employees. 

Theft is one of the most common offences that courts deal with and the Council aims to ensure that courts have effective and up-to-date guidance that helps them give consistent and proportionate sentences to the varied spectrum of offenders that come before them. It also addresses some gaps in the current guidance, covering some common theft offences such as theft of a car or bicycle.

The proposed guideline aims to introduce a clearer focus on the impact of thefts on victims, and an understanding that the value of stolen items to victims is not just financial. It is now subject to consultation and the Council is keen to hear from members of the public, magistrates, people who work in the criminal justice system and other interested parties about issues like:

• The main factors that make any of the offences more serious or less serious;

• Factors that should influence the sentence;

• The structure and format of the guideline; and

• The types and lengths of sentences that should be passed.

People can respond to the whole consultation or just focus on specific issues or offence types that are of particular interest to them. The consultation starts on April 3 and closes on June 26. People can respond by visiting

Chairman of the Sentencing Council, Lord Justice Treacy, said: “Theft comes in a great variety of forms, from someone pocketing a packet of razor blades in a shop to an organised gang stealing railway cables. As well as providing effective guidance to help sentencers deal with this wide spectrum of offenders, the guideline will ensure a clearer focus on the impact of thefts on victims beyond just the financial value of what is stolen from them.”

Helen Dickinson, director general of the British Retail Consortium, said: “We welcome the development of a new sentencing guideline for theft offences, with a clearer focus on retailers as victims. Theft from stores pushed the direct cost of retail crime up to £511m last year, with the average cost of each theft rising by 62 per cent to £177. Far from being victimless, we all pay for this increased stealing through higher prices and, increasingly, shop closures and damage to our town centres. It is positive that the proposed new guideline recognises that the impact of theft is not merely financial but has more wide-reaching consequences for businesses and their staff.”

Peter Chapman, chairman of the Magistrates’ Association Judicial Committee said: "The Magistrates’ Association welcomes this comprehensive draft guideline. Magistrates sentence a large number and a large variety of theft cases. Sometimes they have to consider victims who have suffered direct financial loss, and possibly also fear and loss of confidence to go about their daily lives. Shop theft is a big problem for both large and small retail businesses. Other offences expose the public to danger when vital equipment is stolen. This updated and more detailed guideline will help magistrates identify all the relevant factors to include in their sentencing decisions."