Arrested for Burglary?
Burglary and Aggravated Burglary
Burglary is defined as an entry into a building as a trespasser with the intent to committing an offence. Usually that offence will be theft, but most jurisdictions specify others such as assault, criminal damage & sexual offences which all fall within the ambit of burglary. .
Burglary is defined by section 9 of the Theft Act 1968:
“……A person is guilty of burglary if he enters any building or part of a building as a trespasser with intent to steal, inflict grievous bodily harm [or raping any person therein], or do unlawful damage to the building or anything in it.(section 9(1)(a))……”
“……A person is guilty of burglary if, having entered a building or part of a building as a trespasser, he steals or attempts to steal anything in the building, or inflicts or attempts to inflict grievous bodily harm on any person in the building.(section 9(1)(b))……”
Elements Of The Offence
Although physical evidence of entry is not normally difficult to obtain, it can be difficult on occasions to decide whether an entry has occurred in law. In R v Collins, it was held that entry had to be “substantial” and “effective”. The issue arose in R v Brown 1985 71 Cr App R 15 in which the defendant had been found on the pavement outside a shop with the top half of his body through the broken window, sorting though property on display for sale; this was held by the Court of Appeal to constitute an effective entry, while regarding the use of the word “substantial” as unnecessarily wide.
It was ruled that the jury had been entitled to conclude that the entry had been effective. Furthermore, in R v Ryan 1996 160 JP 610, the defendant had been found partially within a building, having been trapped by a window, and argued that this was not a sufficient entry. However, he was convicted as it was held that a partial entry was sufficient and that it was irrelevant that he was due to circumstances incapable of stealing anything.
“Building or part of a building”
The Theft Act 1968 does not define a building, so this must be a matter of fact for the jury, however Section 9(3) specifically states that the term includes an “inhabited vehicle or vessel”; hence motor homes, caravans and houseboats are protected by the section even when temporarily unoccupied.
Burglary can also be committed in “part of a building” and in R v Walkington 1979 1 WLR 1169 the defendant had entered a large shop during trading hours but went behind a counter and stole money from a till. The court held that he had entered that part of the building normally reserved for staff as a trespasser and was therefore guilty of burglary.
“As a trespasser”
The essence of trespass is entering or remaining on another's property without authority; a person having permission to enter property for one purpose who in fact enters for another purpose may become a trespasser, and in R v Jones and Smith, a defendant who had a general permission to enter his father's home became a trespasser when he did so in order to steal a television set, because doing so was inconsistent with the general permission.
In recent years, the terms “distraction burglary”, “artifice burglary” and “burglary by trick” have been used in crime prevention circles when access to premises is granted as a result of some deception on the occupier, usually by a pretence that the burglar represents some body who might reasonably request access such as a water, gas or electricity supplier.
There is no separate legal definition of this variant.
The intention to commit an offence, being an essential element of burglary, requires proof beyond reasonable doubt. For example, if entry is made to regain property which the defendant honestly believes he has a right to take, there is no intention to steal and the defendant is entitled to be acquitted. However, it has been held that a conditional intent to steal anything found to be of value is enough to satisfy this requirement.
R v Collins is authority for the proposition that the defendant must at least be reckless as to whether his entry is a trespass. For the Section 9(1)(a) offence, proof beyond reasonable doubt is required that the defendant intended to commit the offence specified as part of the burglary. In the Section 9(1)(b) offence, the mens rea is that of the offence committed, such that, for example, if grievous bodily harm is inflicted, recklessness will be sufficient to establish liability.
Under section 10 of The Theft Act 1968, aggravated burglary is committed when a burglar enters and “at the time has with him a firearm, imitation firearm, weapon of offence, or any explosive”.
“At the time”
* In R v O'Leary 1986 82 Cr App R 337, the defendant entered a house unarmed but picked up a kitchen knife once inside; he then used it to force the occupier to hand over property. It was held that this constituted aggravated burglary because the offence which was part of the enterprise had been committed while in possession of the weapon.
* In R v Kelly, 1992 The Times, December 2, the defendant had used a screwdriver to gain entry; once inside the premises, he was confronted by the occupiers and used the screwdriver as a weapon to force them to hand over a video recorder. It was held that the screwdriver became an offensive weapon when he formed an intention to use it for causing injury to the occupier at the time of the theft, and therefore he was guilty of aggravated burglary.
“Has with him”
In R v Kelt 1977 65 Cr App R 74 it was held that this phrase will normally mean mean “carrying”, and in R v Klass 162 JP 105, The Times, 17 December 1997 (CA) others had entered a building for criminal purposes while the defendant remained outside, but in possession of a scaffolding pole which had been used to break a window. This did not, in law, constitute an entry for the purposes of burglary. It was held that since Klass had not himself entered the building, he was guilty of burglary and not aggravated burglary.
It is necessary to prove that the defendant was aware of his possession of a weapon to convict of aggravated burglary. In R v Russell 1984 Crim L R 425, the defendant was found in possession of a knife but had forgotten that he had it; it was held that he was not guilty of aggravated burglary. A plea that the defendant did not intend to use the weapon is not a defence to this charge (R v Stones 1989 1 WLR 156).
Trial and Sentence - Burglary
The maximum penalty for burglary is 14 years imprisonment if committed in a dwelling and 10 years otherwise. Section 4 of the Crime (Sentences) Act 1997 specifies a minimum 3 year prison sentence for third-time domestic burglary unless exceptional circumstances apply. Higher courts have consistently upheld lengthy custodial sentences for burglaries of dwellings; see, for example R v Brewster 1998 1 Cr App R (S) 181
Trial and Sentence - Aggravated Burglary
Aggravated burglary carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment and is therefore triable only on indictment.