What is the meant by the criminal offence of burglary?

Section 9 of the Theft Act 1968

Burglary is defined by Section 9 of the Theft Act 1968 which provides for two different variants of the offence.

What are the two different variants of the offence?

Under Section 9 an individual will be guilty of burglary in one of the two following situations:

  • If he enters 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
  • If 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 in order to prove the offence?

The following elements need to be established in order 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 in order to prove that an individual has entered a building. However, in certain situations it may be difficult to decide whether an entry has occurred in law.

How can it be established whether an entry has occurred?

In law for an entry to occur it must be shown that the entry was substantial and effective.

When will this come into play?

This issue will often come into play when an individual has been found to have partially entered premises. For example there has been a case whereby an individual remained standing on the pavement outside a shop and was leaning through a window sorting through property. Another example is where an individual was only partially in a building as they had been trapped by a window.

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

There is no definition contained within the Theft Act 1968 as to what will constitute a building or part of a building. Accordingly this is a decision which will be left up to the jury.

Does the Theft Act give any kind of guidance?

Section 9(4) of the Theft Act does specifically state that the term building will include an inhabited vehicle or vessel.

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For more information on:

  • What does this mean?
  • What is meant by part of a building?
  • Entering the building as a trespasser
  • Can an individual who has entered a building legally then become a trespasser?
  • Distraction Burglary
  • Intention
  • Is recklessness sufficient to establish liability?
  • What is the likely sentence for an individual convicted of burglary?