HOME OFFICE RESPONSE
The Government is tackling acquisitive crime as a priority and is committed to reducing the ability for criminals to profit from stolen goods. The Beating Crime Plan, published in July 2021, sets out the Government’s strategy for cutting crime, protecting the law-abiding majority and making neighbourhoods safe. The Government is aware of the significant impact the theft of tools can have on victims, particularly those who rely on their tools to earn a living, and the Beating Crime Plan recognises the economic damage caused by crime and the need to cut crime to enable businesses to thrive.
The Home Office has established an expert Stolen Goods Working Group consisting of policing and academic partners who are taking forward work across a number of themes. These include actions to identify where and how stolen goods are sold; examining ways to ensure property is marked, identifiable and traceable; and exploring ways to encourage increased enforcement from police and due diligence checks by second-hand goods traders.
The Home Office is also working closely with the police and motor and insurance industry representatives through a National Vehicle Crime Working Group to take forward a programme of work to tackle vehicle-related theft. This includes consideration of how to effectively prevent and deter theft from vehicles, including vans. We are also working to help police forces increase the knowledge and skills of their officers. A network of vehicle crime specialists has been established across each police force in England and Wales, to ensure forces share information about emerging trends to better tackle regional issues.
To ensure the police have the resources they need to tackle crime, the Government is recruiting an additional 20,000 police officers by March 2023. As at 30 September 2021, the police have recruited an additional 11,053 officers towards the uplift. Furthermore, the Safer Streets Fund – the Government’s flagship crime prevention programme – is supporting areas across England and Wales disproportionately affected by acquisitive crimes, such as burglary and theft, to invest in proven crime prevention measures including street lighting, CCTV, and ANPR cameras.
The Government has invested £45 million across the first two rounds of funding and details for future Safer Streets funding will be announced in due course.
We note the assertion that the sentence for handling stolen goods has been downgraded, and we can reassure you this is not the case. Under the Theft Act 1968, those who steal property such as tools could face a maximum penalty of seven years’ imprisonment if convicted, and those convicted of handling stolen goods could face a maximum penalty of 14 years’ imprisonment. When determining an appropriate sentence, a court may consider the additional negative impact on victims when the property stolen is relied upon to earn a living. The Sentencing Guidelines for theft, published by the independent Sentencing Council, require courts to assess the level of harm caused when determining the offence category. This includes consideration of the financial loss experienced and any additional significant harm suffered by the victims or others, such as if the items stolen were of substantial value to the owner – regardless of monetary worth, the impact of theft on a business, if a high level of inconvenience was caused to the victim or others, and if there was consequential financial harm to the victim or others. The list is non-exhaustive, so the court may consider any other aggravating factors deemed relevant, increasing the seriousness of an offence.
We note the concerns about stolen tools being openly sold and the suggestion that sellers should be challenged to prove ownership. There must be sufficient evidence and suspicion to request details of ownership from sellers. That is why it is important for tools to be appropriately marked and registered on a property database; this provides a basis from which police can conduct the necessary checks to identify stolen goods, verify ownership via the third-party database, and return to rightful owners. There are other practical steps owners can take to protect their property, such as not leaving tools in vans overnight, upgrading locks, and installing alarms. The Police Crime Prevention Initiatives (PCPI) is a not-for-profit, police-owned organisation that works on behalf of Police and Crime Commissioners and Chief Constables to deliver crime prevention and reduction initiatives across the UK. It also provides crime prevention advice: