asked Her Majesty's Government:
Further to the Written Answers by Lord Rooker on 8 July (WA 79) and 29 September (WA 381–2), what are the judicial guidelines on sentence length for multiple burglary offences in Northern Ireland; and, in the light of burglary offences in South Belfast being committed by a small number of offenders, whether those guidelines and the average custodial length for burglary of nine months in 2006 need revising. [HL5543]
The leading guideline case on multiple domestic burglaries is the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal decision in R v. Megarry  NICA 29. In this case, the defendant who was found guilty of seven burglaries and related offences, who preyed on elderly and vulnerable persons and who had a degree of forethought and premeditation received a sentence of four years imprisonment followed by one year probation.
In upholding an appeal against the severity of the sentence in Megarry, the Court of Appeal adopted the observation of the Court of Appeal in England and Wales in R v. Brewster and others  1 Cr A[p] R(S) 181 at page 186:
“Generally speaking, domestic burglaries are the more serious if they are of occupied houses at night; if they are the result of professional planning, organisation or execution; if they are targeted at the elderly, the disabled and the sick; if there are repeated visits to the same premises; if they are committed by persistent offenders; if they are accompanied by vandalism or any wanton injury to the victim; if they are shown to have a seriously traumatic effect on the victim; if the offender operates as one of a group; if goods of high value (whether actual or sentimental) are targeted or taken; if force is used or threatened; if there is a pattern of repeat offending”.
Clearly the sentence in a specific case will depend on its facts.
Sentencing guidelines are published on the Judicial Studies Board for Northern Ireland website at www.jsbni.com. The Judicial Studies Board also provides training for the judiciary on a range of issues, including sentencing.
The Government have no plans to alter the maximum sentence for domestic burglary.