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Sentencing for abstraction offences
Guidance on the sentencing for extracting electricity offences under section 13 of the Theft Act has been issued by the Sentencing Council.1Sentencing Council Guidelines, 1 February 2016 A wide range of punishments may be imposed, from an absolute discharge to imprisonment. The maximum penalty in the magistrates’ court is six months’ imprisonment. The maximum penalty is five years’ imprisonment in the Crown Court for the most serious offences, usually involving the commission of other crimes. Most offences are prosecuted through the magistrates’ court and the most common sentence is a fine. The Crown Court may set an unlimited fine, but in both the Crown Court and the magistrates’ court the level of any fine is linked to your ability to pay it.2Re Churchill (No.2) (1967) 1 QB 190 Where a fine remains unpaid, it may be enforced as a civil debt recoverable through the court machinery, with imprisonment for default where a debtor has the ability to pay but fails to do so. The court may also make a compensation order.3Sentencing Council Guidelines, 1 February 2016
Many factors affect the level of punishment imposed by the court – eg, the motive and any underlying reasons which led to the offence. Aggravating factors which may lead to a higher penalty include stealing fuel over a lengthy period, electricity being extracted from the property of another, attempts to conceal or dispose of evidence, the impact on the community and your previous criminal record.4Sentencing Council Guidelines, 1 February 2016 The court may also consider the risk to life or property accompanying any offence and any damage, for example, where a fire is caused.5R v McKay (Grant) and another [2017] EWCA 2299 CA (Crim) Factors which may reduce the penalty may include personal vulnerability, previous good character, being a sole or primary carer for dependent relatives and taking steps to address offending behaviour. Credit will also be given for a plea of guilty.6s144 Criminal Justice Act 2003 Poverty and necessity are not a defence to stealing fuel.7Southwark LBC v Williams [1971] 2 All ER 175
1     Sentencing Council Guidelines, 1 February 2016 »
2     Re Churchill (No.2) (1967) 1 QB 190 »
3     Sentencing Council Guidelines, 1 February 2016 »
4     Sentencing Council Guidelines, 1 February 2016 »
5     R v McKay (Grant) and another [2017] EWCA 2299 CA (Crim) »
6     s144 Criminal Justice Act 2003 »
7     Southwark LBC v Williams [1971] 2 All ER 175 »