Burglary, Robbery, Theft and Handling Stolen Goods

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Theft and Robbery

Theft is defined as the taking of someone else’s property without consent. It does not involve breaking and entering or using force or fear.


Theft through the use of force or fear is robbery. So that the court may define clear levels for robbery sentencing guidelines, a robbery case will fall into one of three classes: street robbery or mugging, small business robbery, and commercial robbery. 

Not only the type and value of the property stolen but the question of intent will go towards determining the charges. Generally, each crime will be classed as either petty or grand theft depending on these factors.

The maximum sentence for theft is seven years in prison, depending on the circumstances.

There are three levels of the seriousness of robbery:

  • Robbery with minimal force.
  • Robbery with the use of a weapon.
  • Robbery involving the use of a weapon and major force or serious injury.

If you are caught in possession of items that may be used to commit the crime in question, it could be considered that you were going equipped for theft. This factor, along with those levels of crime above, will also affect the sentence given.


Robbery sentencing guidelines state that custodial sentences begin at four or five years. If a robbery is committed with a weapon, then this is classed as armed robbery and can lead to a life sentence.


Burglary also involves the unlawful taking of property. The difference between robbery and burglary is that burglary is breaking into a building without consent (trespassing) in order to commit a crime that does not necessarily include theft.

This type of burglary occurs when an offender enters a building in which people live. This generally refers to houses or flats, outhouses or garages if linked to the property. It also includes boats and vehicles such as caravans.

The maximum sentence is 14 years.

This type of burglary relates to buildings that are not lived in, such as shops or offices.
The maximum sentence is 10 years.

This offence is committed when the offender has with him or her any firearm, imitation firearm, any weapon of offence or explosive.

An assault offence would probably be issued where a weapon is used to attack someone in the course of the burglary. 

The maximum sentence for aggravated burglary is life.

Handling Stolen Goods

Even if a person was not directly involved in a theft, robbery or burglary, if they hold, store, transport or hide the items that were stolen, buy them from the guilty party or accept them as a gift knowing that they were stolen, they will also be prosecuted.

Handling stolen goods sentencing depends on the level of culpability (awareness of the crime) the offender is considered to have:

  • high culpability
  • medium culpability
  • lesser culpability

The perceived culpability depends on:

  • significance of the part the individual is considered to have taken in the offending
  • the level of knowledge of the main offence of theft, robbery or burglary
  • whether the offender hid, sold or used the stolen goods after receiving them
  • any abuse of power or trust involved
  • the level of expertise with which the offence was carried out.

Also categorised from 1-4 is the value of the items handled and the level of harm caused. 1 being the most serious.

The most severe sentence for handling or receiving stolen goods is 14 years in prison.

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