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Theft from an employer 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 Theft from an employer in 2024?

If you’re under investigation for theft from an employer, you must take the advice of a competent fraud solicitor. Otherwise, you may be at risk of being handed a custodial sentence, and this could impede your future when it comes to employment and other opportunities.  

Assault - Criminal Damage

Theft from an employer offence falls under The Theft Act 1968. It is centred around dishonestly appropriating property, including money belonging to another to deprive the other of it permanently.

The crime of theft from an employer can take place in many forms. It might be a charge issued after adjusting an expense claim, stealing from the stationary cabinet, or fraudulently arranging payments for services rendered.  You can find more examples of how this offence is acted out below.

For the person accused or charged with theft from an employer, it can be a very alarming time. Being imprisoned can do a lot of damage to relationships and familial bonds. In addition to a prison sentence, there may be a fine to pay. Besides, making a consistent income for dependents will be very challenging from behind bars.

We have collected questions that our clients typically ask about sentencing for theft from an employer. It will provide you with a clearer understanding of the legal framework of this offence and what the outcome of any court case might be.

Please note that a capable and well-informed solicitor may be able to get any prison sentence lessened or even avert it entirely.

Have you been charged or arrested for theft from an employer?  

If you’ve been charged or arrested in connection to a theft from an employer offence, you’ll most likely be feeling confused, stressed out and full of fear about what the outcome of any possible trial may bring.

There could be significant changes to your employment status, an interruption of income, and a tarnished reputation.

Taking the guidance of a competent fraud solicitor is imperative. They will ideally be able to extract you from the legal mess in which you are finding yourself. They will be able to give you legal support so that the police force don’t withhold further evidence on you for use in Court. If you don’t know about all the evidence that they have on you, you can miss out on having essential arguments presented to the Judge and jury that diminish what the prosecution is stating.

What type of actions are considered theft from an employer?

Typically, the police force and an employer will initiate any investigations into a theft from an employer case.

Examples of acts that fall under the theft from an employer offence are:

Manipulating expense claims – for instance, an employee may repeatedly state that they drove 100 miles to claim an extra expense when the distance of visiting a client was only 40 miles.

Stealing goods from the employer – for example, stealing copper wire from the electrical goods firm that you work for and selling it on the ‘black market’.

Sending in fraudulent invoices for services rendered – for instance, stating that specific works have been actioned, when in fact it’s a fabrication of the truth.

Keeping fraudulent accounts – adjusting and manipulating the books to hide money stolen from the employer.

What is the average sentence for theft from an employer offence?

Depending on what you are charged with, the maximum sentence for this offence is seven years in prison.

The maximum sentences will only be issued when the most severe offending has taken place. When it comes to smaller offences, a penalty is likely to be between one and three 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 theft from an employer sentence?

When sentencing for theft from an employer, your case will be investigated thoroughly by the police and other regulatory agents.

Whether you have taken part in a group activity or were forced into the offence will be examined. 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 originally legitimate
  • Your reputation / good character
  • Whether you have any serious 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 theft from an employer 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. However, 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 theft from an employer offence?

Ancillary Orders

A court can also make ancillary orders on a defendant if they are found guilty and convicted of a theft from an employer 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 theft from an employer 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.

Also, 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

There are several national databases that 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 theft from an employer, 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?

With thirty years of defending cases of theft from an employer behind us, we feel qualified to boast about our competency in this area of law.

When you engage our services, you will be issued a defence lawyer, a barrister and a caseworker. Your team is dedicated to taking care of you and the positive progress of the case.

Our first step will be the exploration of the circumstances surrounding your case so that we can immediately begin work on protecting you on the front foot.

If your assets are frozen, we will act promptly to defend your position and get any orders varied or removed.

With access to the best Barristers, QCs, forensic analysts and accounts, we can call on the best of the best to work with us on your case. After all, this is one of the benefits of being in the law industry for the last 30 years. We have created some of the most compelling and persuasive relationships in this arena.

Would you like to discuss your case before instructing us?

Join us for a free thirty-minute no-obligation consultation about your current situation and your case. It’s a chance to get to know more about what we can do immediately to help you, for you to ask questions and express your concerns.

If you’ve been arrested, we will come to the police station to represent you for free. We can start looking into securing your legal aid. It is important to note that securing legal funding is becoming increasingly difficult.

If for some reason you don’t qualify for legal aid, please note that our fees are highly competitive and we don’t tack on charges without discussing them with you first, wherever possible.

Get in touch with us now for possession of theft from an employer legal help.


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