Thou shalt do more jail time for raiding a church: Burglars who target places of worship, museums or galleries will face tougher punishment under new rules

  • Burglars who steal from churches, museums or galleries to get tougher sentence
  • New rules that were announced yesterday come from the Sentencing Council
  • Those who steal valuables from buildings can expect to face prison more often

Burglars who steal treasures from churches, museums or galleries will get tougher sentences under new rules for the courts announced yesterday.

The instructions to judges and magistrates come from the Sentencing Council, the judge-led body which courts have to follow. 

Under the rules, burglars who steal valuables from buildings other than homes can expect to face prison more often.

Vernon Rapley, of the National Museum Security Group, said such crimes risk ‘denuding our national treasures for future generations’. 

Burglars who steal treasures from churches, museums or galleries will get tougher sentences under new rules that were announced yesterday by the Sentencing Council. (Stock image)

He added: ‘It is important that judges and magistrates have a broad range of sentencing categories to ensure the sentences they pass reflect the true impact of the offence.’

Mark Harrison, crime chief for Historic England, said: ‘It is important the courts are aware of the significant harm and impact that burglary can cause to protected heritage sites and we welcome this review.’

The new rules – which have been sent out for consultation – will reflect harsher sentencing of burglars who steal from businesses, churches or heritage sites that judges and magistrates have been imposing over the past decade.

The harsher sentencing in the courts, which was unforeseen by the Council, is thought to have followed both increasing numbers of burglaries of businesses and museums and the impact of summer riots in 2011, which saw looting in London.

The new rules will reflect harsher sentencing of burglars who steal from businesses, churches or heritage sites. (Stock image)

Between 2011 and 2015, the share of convicted burglars of non-domestic buildings jailed by magistrates went up from 30 per cent to 37 per cent, and by Crown Court judges from 60 per cent to 70 per cent.

Sentencing Council member District Judge Mike Fanning said: ‘Burglary disrupts lives and businesses, and can cause tremendous anxiety to the victims of it. It is important that sentences reflect the seriousness of these offences.

‘The proposed revised guidelines introduce a broader range of offence categories.’

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