Burglars should receive tougher jail sentences, prisoners say in survey


Serving prisoners believe burglars should receive harsher jail sentences, especially if their crimes target homes with children living in them, a new survey suggests.

Almost three quarters (73%) of inmates polled by security firm ADT and prison newspaper Inside Time said they thought judges were too lenient on housebreakers, especially in cases where youngsters were among their victims.

It comes ahead of a campaign by the firm in the paper, aimed at showing prisoners the effect of burgling homes.

The newspaper's editor, former prisoner Noel Smith, 55, has previously written about how being a burglary victim changed his mind about the effect housebreaking has.

ADT spokeswoman Gail Hunter said: "Most burglars appeared concerned to know how much hurt they might have caused, and this was one of the purposes of the exercise. It shows we can help prevent reoffending by leading burglars to see the real effects of targeting a family home."

The poll, which ran in the paper in October, had 175 responses, including 75 burglars. It found that six in 10 (61%) convicted burglars did not consider the impact their crimes had on children living in the houses they broke into.

However, nine in 10 (93%) said they would feel guilty if they knew that any children had been left traumatised by their crimes.

Sentencing guidelines allow for judges to take the impact on children into account when sentencing domestic burglars if they are at home or arrive home during the burglary.

They should also assess whether there has been "trauma to the victim, beyond the normal inevitable consequence of intrusion and theft".

Mr Smith wrote in Inside Time in October that burglars who target family homes should be "treated with contempt on a par with others who commit crimes against families and children".

He added: "It has always amazed me that burglars seem to get a free pass from the majority of UK prisoners.

"I mean, think about it for a second - what do dwelling house burglars actually do? The facts show that they break into the homes of ordinary people, sometimes doing terrible and expensive damage, they then rifle through the personal belongings of whole families, children and babies included, and take what they want.

"And sometimes (all too commonly) leaving behind devastated and frightened victims whose lives have been impacted by this most personal of crimes."

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: "Sentencing is a matter for independent judges, who make their decisions based on the facts of each case.

"Almost all repeat offenders go straight to jail if they have committed a serious offence. Serial offenders face harsher punishment as a third conviction for burglary carries a minimum three year sentence."