Miscellany of sentencing issues

Published date01 June 2021
Date01 June 2021
Subject MatterIn court
Miscellany of sentencing issues
Handling: Following PSR but failing to apply Guideline
When aged 40 B. was in a relationship with K. They were homeless and living in
B.’s car. In that time K. committed two burglaries, one being of power tools worth
£450 stolen from a lock-up garage. On the following day the police traced him to
B.’s car, finding the tools inside. Though both were initially charged with burglary,
B. pleaded guilty to an alternative count of handling stolen goods (HSG), with a
basis of plea (accepted by the prosecution) that she had known the items were in the
vehicle and had suspected that the property was stolen.
A PSR described B.’s ‘chaotic’ mode of life; mother of six children aged from 6 to
19, none in her care, she was long-term heroin dependent though this was now
managed by prescribed methadone. She had secured full-time employment. Other
than two cautions imposed some 15 years previously, she did not have a criminal
record. The author indicated that she could benefit from a community order with a
rehabilitation activity requirement, adding that if the court deemed that punishment
was merited she was suitable to undertake unpaid work. Without offering any
explanation the judge baldly announced imposition of a 2-year community order,
combining a 15 day rehabilitation activity requirement with 150 hours unpaid
On B.’s appeal the Court of Appeal observed that though a recent appeal jud-
gement (Chin-Charles, 2019) had noted that sentencing remarks had become too
laborious and exhaustive and should be kept brief and to the point, judges need to
balance brevity with their statutory duty to set out, at least in outline, the reasons for
the sentence and how that sentence fitted within the relevant guideline. It was
apparent that the judge had not considered the relevant Definitive Guideline gov-
erning HSG (Theft Offences, 2015). If he had he would not have fallen into the error
of simply following the PSR proposals. B’s offence had combined Category C
(‘lesser’) Culpability with Category 4 ‘Harm’ (‘low value goods stolen (up to
£1,000)’). The starting point for a C4 HSG offence (following contested trial) is
given as a Band B fine, with a range between ‘discharge’ and a Band C fine. In light
of B.’s plea, her comparative good character and her efforts to secure work, the
Court substituted a 2 year conditional discharge.
Residential burglary: Unjustness of minimum term?
Aged in his early 50s, R. burgled two homes, one in summer by entering an open
back door while the occupant was there but without disturbing her, removing her
handbag which he left behind in the garden after stealing a bank card and then in
December via a part-open window while the occupants were out, stealing Christmas
presents among other items. He had numerous prior convictions dating back to the
early 1980s, many for residential burglary, his offending being associated with his
Class A drug dependency. He had avoided offending for 7 years 2006–2013
following imposition of a drug rehabilitation requirement but had relapsed before
294 Probation Journal 68(2)

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