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What is the maximum sentence for Obtaining Property by Deception?

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Are you or someone you know facing allegations of obtaining property by deception? If so, understanding the severity of the offence and potential consequences is crucial. While the penalties for such actions can be significant, seeking legal counsel can help mitigate the impact of any custodial sentence. In this article, we’ll dive into the offence of obtaining property by deception, examine the maximum sentence it carries, look at the sentencing guidelines, explore strategies a solicitor can employ to reduce sentencing, and provide information on what to do next.

What is the offence of obtaining property by deception?

In England and Wales, obtaining property by deception is a criminal offence under the Theft Act 1968. Specifically, it falls under Section 15 of the Theft Act, which states:

“A person who by any deception dishonestly obtains property belonging to another, with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it, shall on conviction on indictment be liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years.”

To secure a conviction for obtaining property by deception, the prosecution must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • Deception: The defendant must have deceived the victim in some way. Deception can include false representation, withholding information, or any other action that misleads the victim.
  • Dishonesty: The defendant’s actions must be dishonest according to the standards of reasonable and honest people.
  • Obtaining Property: The defendant must have obtained property as a result of the deception.
  • Belonging to Another: The property obtained must belong to someone other than the defendant.
  • Intent to permanently deprive: The defendant must have intended to permanently deprive the owner of the property.

Examples of obtaining property by deception include:

  • A person pretends to be a bank representative and convinces someone to transfer money to their account under false pretences.
  • Someone sells a car that they know is faulty without disclosing the issues to the buyer.
  • A contractor takes advance payment for renovation work but never completes the job.
  • An individual forges signatures on checks and cashes them at a bank.
  • A salesperson sells counterfeit goods to customers, passing them off as genuine products.
  • A landlord takes a security deposit from a tenant but refuses to return it at the end of the lease without valid reasons.
  • A person poses as a charity worker and collects donations, but the money never reaches the intended charity.
  • An employee submits false expense claims to their employer for personal expenses.
  • A con artist promises high returns on investments but disappears with the money after it’s been invested.
  • A scammer poses as a government official and convinces individuals to provide personal information for identity theft purposes.

What is the maximum sentence for obtaining property by deception?

In England and Wales, the maximum sentence for obtaining property by deception is determined by the Theft Act 1968. According to Section 15 of the Theft Act, a person convicted of obtaining property by deception can face a maximum penalty of imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years.

That being said, the actual sentence imposed by the court depends on various factors, including the specific circumstances of the offence and any aggravating or mitigating factors present. The Sentencing Council provides theft guidelines to assist courts in determining appropriate sentences for offences.

The Sentencing Council’s guidelines consider factors such as the amount of money or the value of the property involved, the level of harm caused to the victim, the defendant’s level of culpability, any aggravating or mitigating factors, and the defendant’s personal circumstances.

For example, if the offence involves a significant amount of money, multiple victims, or significant harm to the victims, the court may impose a sentence closer to the maximum penalty of ten years. Conversely, if the offence involves mitigating factors such as remorse, cooperation with authorities, or a low level of harm to the victims, the court may impose a lower sentence.

In the end, sentencing decisions are made on a case-by-case basis, taking into account all relevant factors and considerations.

What factors influence sentencing for obtaining property by deception?

When sentencing for obtaining property by deception in England and Wales, judges take into account various factors to ensure that the punishment fits the crime and considers both the culpability of the offender and the harm caused to the victim. Here are some of the main considerations judges take into account, including aggravating and mitigating factors, as outlined in Sentencing Council guidance:

  • Judges consider the defendant’s level of culpability in committing the offence. This includes whether the deception was planned or opportunistic, the defendant’s role in the offence, and their degree of responsibility.
  • The level of harm caused to the victim(s) is a crucial factor in sentencing. This includes financial loss, emotional distress, and any other adverse effects suffered by the victim(s) as a result of the deception.
  • The amount of money or the value of the property obtained through deception is considered. Offences involving significant financial loss or substantial gains for the offender may attract harsher sentences.
  • Judges assess the impact of the offence on public trust and confidence in financial institutions, businesses, or individuals. Deceptive actions that undermine trust in society may result in more severe sentences.
  • The defendant’s criminal history, including any previous convictions for similar offences or other relevant criminal conduct, is taken into account. Repeat offenders may receive harsher sentences.
  • Certain factors can aggravate the seriousness of the offence and lead to increased sentences. These may include targeting vulnerable victims, abusing a position of trust or authority, using sophisticated methods of deception, or causing significant financial hardship to the victim(s).
  • Conversely, mitigating factors may reduce the severity of the sentence. These can include remorse demonstrated by the defendant, cooperation with authorities, voluntary restitution to the victim(s), a timely guilty plea, genuine attempts to repay the debt, or evidence of personal mitigating circumstances such as mental health issues or significant personal difficulties.
  • The court may consider victim impact statements, which allow victims to describe the impact of the offence on their lives. This provides insight into the harm suffered and helps judges make informed sentencing decisions.
  • Judges may request pre-sentence reports to assess the defendant’s background, personal circumstances, and risk of reoffending. These reports help inform sentencing decisions and may recommend appropriate rehabilitative measures.

By carefully weighing these factors and considering the principles of justice and proportionality, judges strive to impose sentences that reflect the seriousness of the offence, promote rehabilitation where appropriate, and uphold public confidence in the criminal justice system.

How can a solicitor help with reducing the sentence for obtaining property by deception?

A solicitor will play a crucial role in helping to reduce the sentence for obtaining property by deception by providing expert legal advice, building a strong defence strategy, and advocating on behalf of the defendant. Here’s how a solicitor can assist in this regard:

  • Legal Expertise: Solicitors have in-depth knowledge of criminal law, including the specific elements and potential defences related to obtaining property by deception. They can assess the strengths and weaknesses of the case, identify relevant legal principles, and advise the defendant on the best course of action.
  • Case Preparation: Solicitors gather evidence, interview witnesses, and review documentation to build a robust defence strategy. They ensure that all relevant facts and mitigating circumstances are presented effectively to the court, potentially leading to a more favourable outcome.
  • Negotiation with Prosecution: Solicitors may engage in plea negotiations with the prosecution to secure a favourable plea bargain or reduced charges. By demonstrating cooperation and accepting responsibility for the offence, defendants may receive a lighter sentence than if they proceeded to trial and were found guilty.
  • Mitigation Presentation: Solicitors present mitigating factors to the court to help reduce the severity of the sentence. This can include highlighting the defendant’s remorse, cooperation with authorities, efforts to make restitution to the victim(s), and any personal circumstances that may have contributed to the offence.
  • Sentencing Advocacy: During sentencing proceedings, solicitors advocate on behalf of the defendant, making persuasive arguments for a lenient sentence based on the circumstances of the case and relevant legal principles. They highlight any mitigating factors, such as the defendant’s genuine remorse, cooperation with authorities, restitution efforts, or personal difficulties that may have contributed to the offence.

Where to get more help

If you or someone you care about is concerned about the potential sentence for obtaining property by deception, we understand that this situation can be overwhelming. You likely have numerous pressing inquiries. For further assistance and advice on sentencing and other aspects pertaining to the offence of obtaining property by deception, contact the team at Stuart Miller Solicitors today. Our approachable and understanding team members are ready to assist with your case.

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