Would theft of under £1,000 be a summary offence?Watch
if the theft is under £1,000 would this be a summary offence and tried at Magistrates Court?
Theft is a triable either way offence, and anything where the value of the theft is at least double the maximum fine of the Magistrate's Court (£5000), it can only be tried in the Crown Court. Because of the low value of the item, it's likely to be tried in the Magistrate's Court, though the defendant will be able to choose which court they'd prefer the case to be heard in.
The Consolidated Criminal Practice Direction Part V.51.7 states that in the case of theft and fraud:
"Cases should be tried summarily unless the court considers that one or more of the following features is present in the case and that its sentencing powers are insufficient.
(a) Breach of trust by a person in a position of substantial authority, or in whom a high degree of trust is placed;
(b) Theft or fraud which has been committed or disguised in a sophisticated manner;
(c) Theft or fraud committed by an organised gang;
(d) The victim is particularly vulnerable to theft or fraud, e.g. the elderly or infirm;
(e) The unrecovered property is of high value: [by paragraph V.51.4, at least £10,000]."
So unless one of those five features is present (which need not be the feature relating to value of the property) and the Magistrates' sentencing powers are insufficient, they should accept jurisdiction to try the case.
As you say, if the Magistrates' Court accepts jurisdiction then the defendant has a choice over whether he wishes to elect a Crown Court trial.
From 13 May 2014 a new offence of low value shoplifting is created by section 176 of The Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014.
This offence applies where goods of a value of £200 or less are stolen from a shop by a person purporting to be a potential customer.
In such cases the theft will be a summary only offence, meaning that the magistrates may not decline jurisdiction or commit the case for sentence and that other rules relating to summary only offences will apply.
However, unlike with other summary only offences, the defendant will still be able to elect a crown court trial. If he does so, the offence goes back to being treated as an either way offence.
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