Aggravated vehicle taking offences guidelines

Written 27th February 2024 by Hope Rea

A Sentencing Council Consultation regarding Aggravated vehicle taking, disqualification and other motoring related offences guidelines

The Sentencing Council have published a consultation paper calling for members of the judiciary and criminal justice professionals to comment on the update of sentencing guidelines for various motoring offences.

In 2023, the Sentencing Council published revised guidelines for various motoring offences regarding dangerous and careless driving. They now wish to consider the guidelines for various offences which may be out of date. In particular, the various aggravating vehicle taking offences have more general and undetailed guidance which was published in 2008. They are in need of an update.

What are Sentencing Guidelines?

The Sentencing Guidelines are published by the Sentencing Council and are used daily by the judiciary (in Magistrates Court and Crown Court) and those working within the Criminal Justice System. The Sentencing Council are an independent body responsible for developing sentencing guidelines that courts in England and Wales must follow when passing a sentence. They provide general guidance for the sentencing of specific offences. The Sentencing Council aims to increase public understanding, transparency and consistency in sentencing of criminal offences.

The guidelines offer assistance in categorising offences according to culpability and harm caused. Each category of an offence provides varying starting points for a sentence and the range of sentences that can be considered by the court. They also provide a non-exhaustive list of potential aggravating and mitigating factors the court may consider during sentencing.

Offences being considered:

Aggravated vehicle taking offences

Vehicle taking offences are set out under section 12 of the Theft Act 1968 and are defined as where someone, without having the consent of the owner or lawful authority, takes any ‘conveyance’ (vehicle) for his or another’s use whilst knowing he had no authority to do so. This includes theft of a vehicle but may also include scenarios such as driving a hire car beyond the allotted time, taking a company vehicle without authorisation, or driving a parent or spouse’s car without their permission.

The offence may be aggravated by:

  1. Where the vehicle has been driven dangerously on a public road or place
  2. Where injury or death has been caused by the driving of the vehicle
  3. Where damage has been caused to property by the driving of the vehicle
  4. Where damage is caused to the vehicle itself

The current legislation sets a maximum sentence of a custodial sentence of two years in cases which do not result in death. Under section 22 of the Magistrates’ Courts Act 1980, Damage to property or a vehicle not exceeding £5,000 is a summary offence and therefore will only be subject to a maximum custodial sentence of 6 months.

The other variations of the offence are triable either way, so can be dealt with in either the Magistrates’ courts or the Crown Court.

The Sentencing Council has proposed four separate guidelines for aggravating vehicle offences. They have been categorised as follows:

  1. aggravated vehicle taking – dangerous driving
  2. aggravated vehicle taking – causing damage (covering damage to both the vehicle taken and other property)
  3. aggravated vehicle taking – causing injury (excluding death)
  4. aggravated vehicle taking – causing death

The proposed guidelines include categorising the four offences according to culpability (from highest culpability (A) to lowest culpability (C) ) and harm (Category 1 being the most serious harm, Category 3 being less serious).

Please note the below table examples for the proposed sentencing guidelines.

Offence Variation Sentence
Least serious category
(Culpability C – Harm 3)
Most serious category
(Culpability A – Harm 1)
Dangerous Driving Low level community order – 1-2 years custody Starting point Medium level community order Category range Low level community order – High level community order Starting point 1 year 6 months’ custody Category range 1 – 2 years’ custody
Causing Damage Low level community order – 2 years custody Starting point Low level community order Category range Band B fine - Medium level community order Starting point 1 year’s custody Category range 18 weeks – 2 years’ custody
Causing Injury Low level community order – 2 years custody Starting point Medium level community order Category range Low level community order – High level community order Starting point 1 year 6 months’ custody Category range 1 – 2 years’ custody
Causing Death 2 years custody – 12 years custody Starting point 3 years custody Category range 2-4 years custody Starting point 10 years custody Category range 7- 12 years custody

The Sentencing Council is asking for comments on the proposed updates to the sentencing guidelines currently. The consultation will end on 22nd May 2024.

The full consultation paper can be found on the Sentencing Council website

Hope Rea

Trainee Solicitor


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