Punishments for crooks who raid homes have been increasing over the past decade – and those tasked with reviewing criminal sentences believe judges have been doing the right thing.
Analysis from the Sentencing Council found the average jail term handed to burglars rose by four months following changes to guidance issued to judges.
The longer tariffs have been deemed “proportionate” according to new proposals around sentences for burglary offences released this week.
The starting point for the most serious burglaries is three years, with judges having the option to hand out a term of between two and six years depending on how severe an individual offence is.
Aggravating factors – reasons for increasing the sentence – include burglaries carried out when a child was at home, when homes are targeted at night and where the crook is under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
The Sentencing Council found 77% of those prosecuted for domestic burglary were locked up and the average sentence in 2019 for a criminal who pleaded guilty – meaning their sentence could be reduced by up to a third – was 28 and a half months.
The reported increase in sentencing severity follows guidance issued to the courts in 2012.
In a review of the impact of that guidance, the Sentencing Council “concluded that although the aggregate impact of the guideline on sentencing outcomes was not predicted, sentencing practice in individual types of cases is proportionate to the seriousness of the offence.
“This means that the higher sentences under the existing guideline are expected to be maintained for the more serious offences, especially for domestic burglary.”
One change to the guidance that is being proposed is the removal of ‘targeting’ from the list of factors that could push a burglary sentence into the the most severe category.
The Sentencing Council said this was because burglars often targeted “homes with expensive cars on the drive, homes thought to contain large sums of cash/expensive jewellery and so on”.
It has maintained, however, that cases where vulnerable victims are targeted should fall into the highest sentencing category.
Merseyside Police received reports of just over 15,000 burglary offences in 2020, around 7,000 of which saw homes targeted.
The number of domestic burglaries fell by around 13% in comparison to 2019.
While the sentencing range for the worst burglaries is between two and six years, the maximum punishment is 14 years – with multiple offences and previous convictions among the reasons for a sentence to be increased.
Merseyside has seen the sentencing of several major burglars over the past year.
One man crimewave James Sanders hit nine homes in one night days after being freed from prison.
The 34-year-old was released in March of 2020 and after just seven days of freedom he burgled again.
During one raid he was captured on camera when he tried to remove the CCTV device from one of the victim’s properties.
Sanders, from Wirral but of no fixed abode, was sentenced to six years for nine counts of burglary.
Patrick Symes raided 41 homes in just over four months to feed a spiralling £200 per day cocaine habit.
The 31-year-old ransacked homes across Merseyside and West Lancashire snatching precious items including a wedding ring which belonged to a victim’s dead husband.
He even stole from an Army veteran in Litherland who served with the 3rd Battalion Rifles for 24 years, taking medals from tours of duty in Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Iraq and Afghanistan, of “great sentimental value”.
Symes, of no fixed abode but from Kirkby, was jailed for 10 years after he admitted conspiracy to commit burglary.
And Liverpool men Thomas Mee, 42, John Barlow, 58, and Vincent Ball, 52, were behind a string of break-ins targeting the rich and famous.
The gang struck at the homes of Manchester City star Raheem Sterling and Jamiroquai frontman Jay Kay.
A total of more than £550,000 of jewellery, watches and handbags was taken from 14 properties across Nottinghamshire, Worcestershire, Buckinghamshire and Warwickshire between November 2018 and October 2018.
Mee, of Queens Drive Liverpool, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to burgle and handling stolen goods. Ball, of Ranworth Place and Barlow, of no fixed address, both pleaded guilty to conspiracy to burgle.
Mee was jailed for eight years and seven months, Barlow for seven years and six months and Ball for six years and nine months.