Theft From The Person: Meaning Of Vulnerable Victim For The Purposes Of The Sentencing Guideline

R. v De Weever (Rawle) [2009] EWCA Crim 803; [2010] 1 Cr. App. R. (S.) 3

The appellant (D), who had pleaded guilty to theft, appealed against his sentence of 18 months' imprisonment. D had stolen a purse from the shoulder bag of the victim (H) when she was on a train. The purse had contained a driving licence, an NHS identity card, a debit card, a credit card, a store card, correspondence, photographs and £20 in cash. None of the property was ever recovered. D initially denied the offence, but pleaded guilty after the Crown served CCTV evidence. He had 22 previous convictions for 41 offences, including attempted murder, offences of violence, robbery, theft from the person and attempted theft from the person. The recorder found that H was a vulnerable victim, within the meaning of the Sentencing Guidelines Council's guidelines, and took a starting point of 12 months' imprisonment. He added nine months for the aggravating features, such as D's criminal record and the inconvenience caused to H, but gave a 14 per cent discount for the late plea.

Appeal allowed. H was not a vulnerable victim for the purposes of the guideline. She was targeted because she was carrying a bag which enabled D to effect the theft without her realising in time, not because she was of an age or suffering from a disability that made her unlikely or unable to resist the theft. Therefore, the starting point should have been a medium-level community order with a range from a fine to 18 weeks in custody. However, there were a number of grave aggravating features which took the offence out of that lower bracket: the offence was planned and carried out in a highly professional manner; it involved pushing H, which was a use of force short of robbery; it involved a high level of inconvenience to H; D had previous convictions for theft and attempted theft from the person; and he had failed to respond to his most recent sentences. The appropriate sentence in the next bracket was 12 months' imprisonment, which would be reduced to 10 months to reflect his last-minute plea.

Did you know?

45 per cent of all recorded robberies in England and Wales in 2006/07 occurred in London.