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What happens for a first offence of Burglary?

Burglary - Theft Charges | Stuart Miller Solicitors

Facing a burglary accusation for the first time carries significant legal consequences within the United Kingdom. Burglary entails the unlawful entry into a premises with the intent to commit theft or other crimes therein. This article explores the essential elements of burglary, the usual legal processes, potential sentencing consequences, and avenues for obtaining legal support when dealing with such allegations. Should you find yourself in the unfortunate predicament of being charged with burglary as a first-time offender, it is vital to grasp the seriousness of the situation and secure the services of a qualified legal expert to begin constructing a strong defence.

What is the offence of burglary?

In England, burglary is a criminal offence defined under Section 9 of the Theft Act 1968. To secure a conviction for burglary, the prosecution must prove two key elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • Entry: The defendant must have entered a building or part of a building as a trespasser. This means they must have entered without lawful authority or permission. It’s important to note that even minimal entry, such as putting a hand through an open window or inserting an object into a building, can constitute entry for the purposes of burglary.
  • Intent: The defendant must have entered the building with the intent to commit one of the following offences:
  • Theft (stealing property from within the building).
  • Inflicting grievous bodily harm (causing serious physical harm to someone inside).
  • Doing unlawful damage to the building or anything inside it.

The prosecution must prove both the entry and the intent to secure a conviction for burglary. If either of these elements is not proven, the defendant cannot be convicted. The intent to commit one of the specified offences can be inferred from the circumstances surrounding the entry, which may be a prominent feature of police questioning or events at trial.

There are different degrees of burglary, including dwelling burglary (burglary of a residential building, like a house or apartment) and non-dwelling burglary (burglary of non-residential buildings, such as commercial properties or outbuildings). Sentences for burglary convictions vary depending on the type of burglary, and the circumstances and the severity of the offence.

What are some examples of burglary offences?

Here are some examples of burglary offences in the UK:

  • Breaking into a house and stealing valuable electronics while the occupants are away on vacation.
  • Entering a commercial shop after hours and stealing cash from the till.
  • Illegally entering a warehouse with the intent to steal valuable goods stored inside.
  • Climbing through an open window of a residence and taking jewellery from a bedroom.
  • Forcibly entering a garage and stealing tools and equipment stored inside.
  • Using a stolen key to enter a locked office building and taking important documents.
  • Breaking into a vacant property and causing damage to the interior, even if nothing is stolen (the intent was to commit unlawful damage).
  • Entering a school during the night with the intent to steal computers and other valuable equipment.
  • Breaking into a car repair shop to steal automotive parts and tools.
  • Illegally accessing a storage unit to steal furniture and personal belongings.
  • Climbing over a fence and entering a construction site to steal construction materials.
  • Entering a church with the intent to steal religious artefacts or valuable donations.
  • Breaking into a vacant holiday cottage and taking electronics, appliances, and personal items.
  • Illegally entering a farm building to steal farming equipment and livestock.

There are numerous actions and circumstances that might lead to a burglary conviction.

What happens if you are accused of burglary?

If you are accused of burglary in the UK, several investigative and prosecutorial steps typically follow:

  • Arrest: If law enforcement has reason to believe that you may be involved in a burglary, they can arrest you. This may happen if there is evidence or witness statements linking you to the crime.
  • Investigation: The police will conduct an investigation to gather evidence related to the burglary. This can include collecting physical evidence, interviewing witnesses, examining surveillance footage, and conducting forensic analysis.
  • Questioning: As a suspect, you have the right to remain silent and not answer any questions without legal representation present. It is always advisable to exercise this right and request a solicitor before answering any questions.
  • Detention: After arrest, you may be held in police custody for a period of time while the investigation continues if the police consider there to be a real risk of you harming yourself or others, or failing to comply with the investigation. The police may apply for a detention warrant to extend your time in custody if they believe it is necessary for the investigation.
  • Charging: If the police gather sufficient evidence to support the accusation, they may charge you with burglary. At this point, you will be informed of the charges against you. The CPS must also agree there is sufficient evidence to charge you.
  • Court Proceedings: You will appear in court, and the prosecution will present its case against you. You will have the opportunity to defend yourself, present evidence, and cross-examine witnesses. If you have legal representation, your solicitor or barrister will assist you in your defence
  • Trial: If the case goes to trial, the prosecution must prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Your defence will try to challenge the evidence and establish reasonable doubt.
  • Verdict: The judge or jury will reach a verdict based on the evidence and arguments presented during the trial. If you are found not guilty, you will be acquitted and released. If you are found guilty, you will be sentenced.
  • Sentencing: If convicted, the court will determine an appropriate sentence. The severity of the sentence will depend on various factors, including the circumstances of the burglary, your criminal history, and any mitigating or aggravating factors.
  • Appeals: If you disagree with the verdict or sentence, you may have the right to appeal the decision to a higher court.

Remember that being accused of a crime does not necessarily mean you are guilty. You have the right to a fair legal process, legal representation, and the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. You should always consult with an experienced criminal defence solicitor if you are accused of a crime, especially one as serious as burglary.

What is the sentence for burglary?

Sentencing for burglary in England is subject to a range of factors, and it adheres to the sentencing guidelines provided to judges by the Sentencing Council. The severity of the sentence depends upon various elements, including the degree of violence employed, the value of stolen property, the impact on the victim, and the presence of any aggravating or mitigating factors. The maximum sentence is life imprisonment, but offenders are likely to get a lesser sentence in general.

When determining the sentence for burglary, the judge takes into account both aggravating and mitigating factors.

Aggravating factors are aspects that exacerbate the seriousness of the offence and may lead to a more severe sentence. These can include:

  • The use of weapons or dangerous instruments during the burglary.
  • Instances of violent or protracted confrontations with the victim.
  • Inflicting severe physical or psychological harm upon the victim.
  • Involvement of multiple offenders in the burglary.

Conversely, mitigating factors are elements that may lessen the defendant’s culpability and result in a more lenient sentence. These can include:

  • A lack of prior convictions or a previously unblemished character.
  • Genuine remorse or cooperation with the authorities.
  • Limited involvement in the burglary, especially if coerced or pressured.
  • Minor injuries or minimal threat of violence during the burglary.

The specific sentence within the sentencing range will hinge on the unique circumstances of the case, and judges retain discretion to make that decision. The overarching objective of the sentencing guidelines is to ensure equity and proportionality in sentencing while allowing for flexibility to address the individual nature of each defendant and each case.

Will I go to prison if it is my first time committing burglary?

Whether a first-time offender will go to prison for committing burglary in the UK depends on several factors. Imprisonment is – of course – a potential outcome, but it is not the outcome for all offenders, especially those without prior convictions. The decision on sentencing for burglary takes into account the specific circumstances of the offence, the level of violence or intimidation involved, the impact on the victim, and the presence of any aggravating or mitigating factors.

A first-time offender with a clean criminal record, who demonstrates genuine remorse and cooperates with the authorities, may well have a higher likelihood of receiving a less severe sentence, such as a community order or a suspended sentence, instead of an immediate prison term.

That being said, you should note that if the burglary involves extreme violence, the use of weapons, or causes significant harm to the victim, even a first-time offender may face the possibility of a custodial sentence, which could result in imprisonment. The final decision rests with the judge, who considers the specific details of the case and strives to deliver a sentence that is proportionate and just.

Where to get more help

If you or someone you care about is confronted with burglary charges, promptly seek the advice and representation of an experienced burglary defence solicitor. The selection of your legal representation can substantially influence the eventual outcome of your case. For a confidential, no-cost consultation, contact the team at Stuart Miller Solicitors without delay.


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