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Handling stolen goods is an offence that can come with a stiff punishment. This article provides detailed guidance on the typical sentencing for this offence.

What is the sentence for Handling stolen goods in 2024?

The handling of stolen goods when there is an awareness that they were purloined is against the law. If you know or believe they were taken, and then still handle them either through receiving, assisting in their retention, removing, or disposing of them, it can lead to a court case and if found guilty - a conviction.

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If you are accused or charged with handling stolen goods, it can be quite terrifying. You won’t know what the outcome of any court case might be. Will you be imprisoned and separated from your family for a prison sentence? You may be expected to pay a hefty fine.

A prosecution must prove that you knew you were handling stolen goods and you were not handling them to return them to the rightful owner, but doing so in a dishonest manner.

To provide you with further information about what may happen if you’re part of an investigation into an offence of handling stolen goods, we have listed the questions and answers to our most frequently received queries from clients.

Please note that we are here to support you, and you can call us for further information. It should also be pointed out that a good quality solicitor may be able to get your case dismissed, or your sentence reduced.

Have you been charged or arrested for handling stolen goods?  

Anybody who has been charged or arrested in connection to any offence, including handling stolen goods, will find the experience to be very stressful. There will be a police interview to get through, and then a potential court date. During the police interview, they will be trying to collect evidence that they can use against you in Court.

Taking along an experienced lawyer to your police interview is vital. They will not only demand to see all evidence that the police have against you, but they can advise you of what and what not to say.

What type of activity is the handling of stolen goods offence?

Handling stolen goods is typically the handling of any stolen goods, including money, but except for land.  Here are some basic examples, so that you can understand more about this crime:

Storing a stolen television – for instance, your friend has taken a TV, and they ask you if you can look after it for a while until it is less ‘hot’.

Helping to sell stolen jewellery – for example, you know somebody who has some stolen jewellery, and you have a friend who needs a birthday present for her mother. You facilitate the purchase of the stolen jewellery and are the go-between for the thief and your friend.

Handling money from stolen goods – if you are aware that the money is from the sale of the stolen goods, you could also be charged with this offence.

There are many other examples of acts that would be classified as the handling stolen goods offence. If you have any questions about what fits into this offence, then call us on 0208 888 5225, and we will be able to provide you with further information.

What is the average sentence for handling stolen goods offences?

The Judge will decide what sentence to give for the offence of handling stolen goods. There will be a consideration put on what the value of the goods is, and what level of blame the person has. The sentence could range from community service to a prison term of a maximum of fourteen years.

Here are the guidelines that judges and magistrates receive to decide what sentence to give.

The level of culpability is determined by weighing up all the factors of the case to determine the offender’s role and the extent to which the offending was planned and the sophistication with which it was carried out.

Culpability demonstrated by one or more of the following

A – High culpability

  • A leading role where offending is part of a group activity
  • Involvement of others through pressure, influence
  • Abuse of position of power or trust or responsibility
  • Sophisticated nature of offence/significant planning
  • Fraudulent activity conducted over sustained period of time
  • Large number of victims
  • Deliberately targeting victim on basis of vulnerability

B – Medium culpability

  • A significant role where offending is part of a group activity
  • Other cases that fall between categories A or C because:
    • Factors are present in A and C which balance each other out and/or
    • The offender’s culpability falls between the factors as described in A and C

C – Lesser culpability

  • Involved through coercion, intimidation or exploitation
  • Not motivated by personal gain
  • Peripheral role in organised fraud
  • Opportunistic ‘one-off’ offence; very little or no planning
  • Limited awareness or understanding of the extent of fraudulent activity

Where there are characteristics present which fall under different levels of culpability, the Court should balance these characteristics to reach a fair assessment of the offender’s culpability.


Harm is initially assessed by the actual, intended or risked loss as may arise from the offence.

The values in the table below are to be used for actual or intended loss only.

Intended loss relates to offences where circumstances prevent the actual loss that is intended to be caused by the fraudulent activity.

Risk of loss (for instance in mortgage frauds) involves consideration of both the likelihood of harm occurring and the extent of it if it does. Risk of loss is less serious than actual or intended loss. Where the offence has caused risk of loss but no (or much less) actual loss the normal approach is to move down to the corresponding point in the next category. This may not be appropriate if either the likelihood or extent of risked loss is particularly high.

Harm A – Loss caused or intended
Category 1 £500,000 or more Starting point based on £1 million
Category 2 £100,000 – £500,000 or Risk of category 1 harm Starting point based on £300,000
Category 3 £20,000 – £100,000 or Risk of category 2 harm Starting point based on £50,000
Category 4 £5,000 – £20,000 or Risk of category 3 harm Starting point based on £12,500
Category 5 Less than £5,000 or Risk of category 4 harm Starting point based on £2,500

What are some of the mitigating factors that might reduce the handling of stolen goods sentence?

When sentencing for handling stolen goods, your case will be investigated thoroughly by the police and other regulatory agents.

It will be looked at for whether you have taken part in a group activity or to see if you were forced into it. If you’ve used a false identity, or you have used the identity of others to access more funds, this will be considered to decide your sentence.

Certain aspects of a case are known as the mitigating aspects which can influence the sentence that a judge gives. One of the factors judges consider in every case of this nature is the defendant’s level of genuine remorse.

The following are some of the other factors considered when the Court decides which sentence to give. They will look at:

  • Any previous conviction
  • Your level of remorse
  • Your level of cooperation with the investigation
  • Whether the activity you took part in was initially legitimate
  • Your reputation / good character
  • Whether you have any severe medical conditions that require long term, urgent or intensive treatment
  • Whether you have a learning disability or a mental disorder
  • Whether you are the sole or primary carer for related dependents

Is it possible to reduce a sentence for handling stolen goods with a guilty plea?

In recent years, several changes have been made to the sentencing system in the UK to save the court time and cost and to protect witnesses from the stress of needlessly going through a trial. For offenders aged 18 and over, pleading guilty early on in a case can reduce a sentence by as much as one third (maximum). The later the plea is entered, the smaller the reduction.

‘Early on’ refers to ‘the first stage of the proceedings’ and means anytime up to and including the first hearing at the Magistrates Court or Crown Court for indictable offences.

If a plea is entered 14 days after the first hearing, for example, the maximum level of reduction is just 20% or one-fifth of the sentence. For indictable offences, the limit for a guilty plea to be made is within 28 days after the prosecutor has stated compliance with section 3 of CPIA 1996 and serving disclosure; although the decision is ultimately in the hands of the Judge who has the discretion to apply whatever credit is deemed appropriate.

After these times, there is a sliding scale of credit applied. This goes down to one-tenth on the first day of the trial and to zero if entered during the course of the trial. In theory, the ten per cent could be given if the plea is issued after the opening speeches on the first day, but prior to any witness evidence being heard.

If the accused does not want to plead guilty, then it’s essential for the solicitor to regularly inform the Court throughout the trial of the reasons why the client’s plea is not guilty.

What are some of the other consequences of handling stolen goods offence?

Ancillary Orders

A court can also make ancillary orders on a defendant if they are found guilty and convicted of a handling stolen goods offence. These are extra elements of punishment that can be added to a sentence and include additional restrictions or requirements that can affect a dependent’s finances, your property or business or financial activity.

Ancillary orders that are typically added to the penalty for those who are found to be guilty of handling stolen goods include:

  • Compensation for loss
  • Restraint orders
  • Reparation orders
  • Financial reporting order
  • Disqualification from directing a company
  • Confiscation orders

As part of your investigation, you may also have your assets frozen with the possibility of having cash or other assets seized.

In addition, the Court may demand payment of the following if the accused is convicted:

Payment of costs applied for by the prosecutors

Although the police meet some of the costs involved in the prosecution, the costs of investigation are typically sought from the convicted. These may include the costs of:

  • The work done in obtaining sufficient evidence for prosecution either at the initial stage or later at the request of Crown Prosecution Service (CPS)
  • Seeking medical or expert evidence as part of the investigation, (where a witness is required to attend Court, the cost of the attendance falls on the CPS).
  • Re-interviewing witnesses
  • The entire costs of the prosecutor, including fees for the use of external Barristers used by the CPS, can be recovered from the defendant, subject to means. At the end of the case, the prosecutor under The Prosecution of Offences Act 1985 will request the Judge to order a sum to be paid for the costs incurred by the prosecutor in bringing the prosecution.

Victims surcharges

The term victims’ surcharges can be explained as paying compensation to a fund for victims and can range between £20 to £170 depending on what sentence you were given at conviction.

How sentences can be added to national information databases

Several national databases hold information about individuals and any allegations made about them, their criminal and court records. These include the DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) which was previously known as the CRB (Criminal Record Bureau) and the Police National Computer (PNC).  Depending on what happened, whether the accused is convicted and what sentence was issued, the accused may be added to one or all these databases. Their purpose is to provide information to potential employers and to regulate the ability to take part in certain activities.

If your case progresses to Court and you are convicted of handling stolen goods, your conviction will be noted on your CRB / police record. The period of the endorsement will depend on the nature and length of your sentence.

Below are details on how long you will be listed as holding a criminal record if convicted. This is something very serious to consider when it comes to future employment. The term ‘spent’ refers to when your name can be removed from the databases.

Rehabilitation Period
(the time it takes for the sentence to become ‘spent’)
Sentence Adult (aged 18+) at time of conviction Young person (aged under 18) at time of conviction
Prison sentences of more than 4 years Sentence is never spent Sentence is never spent
Prison sentences of more than 2.5 years (30 months) but less than 4 years Sentence length 7 years Sentence length 3.5 years
Prison sentences of more than 6 months but less than 2.5 years (30 months) Sentence length +4 years Sentence length +2 years
Prison sentences of less than 6 months Sentence length + 2 years Sentence length +18 months
Conditional Discharge Length of order Length of order
Absolute Discharge None None
Conditional Caution 3 months 3 months
Simple Caution / Youth Caution None – immediately ‘spent’ None – immediately ‘spent’
Other Including Compensation Order, Supervision Order, Bind Over, Hospital Order Length of the order / once compensation is paid Length of the order / once compensation is paid

How Can Stuart Miller Solicitors Help?

As far as defending for handling stolen goods cases, we’ve had extensive experience. We’ve been doing this for over thirty years and know every argument inside out. Whatever your situation is and whatever the size of the case is, we’re here to help and have some of the brightest legal minds in the country ready to be put to work for you.

Over three decades of helping people like you to either avoid imprisonment altogether or to get their cases reduced, means that we have also developed a broad network of legal specialists. From the best QCs to barristers to expert witnesses, our extended team will all be working hard to support you in every way.

Known for being competitive and determined to win, we will hold your hand every step of the way as we battle against your prosecutors.

One of our approaches is to speak with you to get to know you well. We already know that the way we represent you to the Judge and the jury will make all the difference with regards to how you’re perceived and sentenced.

Every case that we take on is supported by all of our legal team so that no stone goes unturned. We love what we do, and it’s us who set the industry standard.

Would you like to discuss your case before instructing us?

You are invited to speak with us on a free no-obligation consultation so that you can express your concerns and ask questions about your case. Our legal experts will provide you with answers and guidance on what you should do to lessen your sentence or to get your case dismissed entirely.

To book your session, complete our contact form or call us on 0208 888 5225. If you’ve been arrested or charged and you need to speak to somebody immediately in an emergency call 07980 000 076 24/7.

Get in touch with us now for possession of handling stolen goods legal help.


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