What is the meant by the criminal offence of burglary?

Section 9 of the Theft Act 1968

Burglary is defined by s 9 of the Theft Act 1968 (TA 1968) which provides for two different variants of the offence. An individual will be guilty of burglary if:

  • they enter any building or part of a building as a trespasser with intent to steal, inflict grievous bodily harm or do unlawful damage to the building or anything in it; or
  • having entered a building or part of a building as a trespasser, an individual attempts to steal anything in the building or inflicts or attempts to inflict grievous bodily harm on any person in the building.

What needs to be established to prove the offence?

The following elements need to be established to prove the criminal offence of burglary:

  • that the person enters the building;
  • that it is a building or part of a building;
  • that they do this as a trespasser;
  • that they do this with intent.

An individual’s entry to a building

In most cases it will be routine to find physical evidence to prove an individual has entered a building. However, in certain situations it may be difficult to decide whether an entry has occurred in law.

For an entry to occur, it had to be shown that the entry was ‘substantial and effective’ (R v Collins (1973)). However, someone can be convicted of burglary if they are found to have partially entered premises. For example, in R v Brown (1985) an individual remained standing on the pavement outside a shop and had leant in through a window and taken goods. Another example is where an individual was only partially in a building as they had been trapped by a window (R v Ryan (1996)).

In both these cases it was held that the entry had been sufficient to be convicted for burglary. In the second example it was also held to be immaterial that the defendant was not able to steal anything due to being trapped by the window.

A building or part of a building

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For more information on:

  • Entering the building as a trespasser
  • Distraction burglary
  • Intention
  • Sentences for burglary