What is burglary?

The offence of burglary is defined under the Theft Act 1968. To be found guilty of the offence the prosecution must prove, beyond reasonable doubt that:

  • the defendant entered a building as a trespasser with an intention to
  • steal
  • inflict grievous bodily harm on a person within the building
  • cause damage to the building or property within the building
  • the defendant entered the building as a trespasser 
  • stole or attempted to steal something from the building
  • caused or attempted to cause grievous bodily harm to someone in the building

How is ‘building’ defined?

Although the term ‘building’ has not been defined in the Theft Act, the courts take a sensible approach to what is a ‘building’ in relation to burglary.  Inhabited vehicles and vessels are considered buildings, as are partially complete premises.

‘Building’ is also defined as part of a building.  For example, burglary occurs if a person goes behind the counter of a shop with the intent to steal or cause damage to person or property.

What is a trespasser?

To obtain a conviction of burglary, the prosecution must prove that the defendant entered the building as a trespasser.  A trespasser is a person who does not have permission, either expressly or impliedly, from the building occupier and/or owner to enter the building.

The prosecution must also show that the defendant know they were a trespasser, or at least were reckless as to whether or not they had permission to enter the building.

How do prosecutors prove intent?

If the prosecution cannot prove that the defendant had an intention to;

  • steal
  • cause grievous bodily harm
  • cause damage

when he or she entered the building then the offence of burglary cannot be established.

It is no defence if the defendant claims they only had intent to steal if they found something worth stealing.  Even if the items that the defendant intended to steal were not in the building at the time of entry, the offence of burglary is still committed if the other elements of the crime are proven.

What is the sentence for burglary?

Section 9 of the Theft Act provides that the maximum sentence for a conviction of burglary is as follows:

  •       14 years’ imprisonment – where the offence was committed in respect of a building which is a dwelling
  •       10 years’ imprisonment– where the offence was committed in relation to any other buildings

Section 4 of the Crime (Sentences) Act 1997 specifies a minimum three-year prison sentence for third-time domestic burglary convictions, unless the defendant can prove exceptional circumstances. 

Burglary is a serious offence, carrying a heavy penalty.  If you have been charged with burglary it is imperative that you seek legal advice immediately.

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