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Guidelines introduced by the Sentencing Council on October 6 mean that for the first time judges and magistrates will take into account whether a theft caused damage to heritage structures or great emotional distress when calculating a sentence.

Central to the spirit of the new guidelines is the understanding that the value of stolen items to victims is not just financial - something absent from the previous, more 'matter-of-fact' system.

The council also recognises the impact that shop or stall thefts can have. In the shop theft guideline, it emphasises not only loss of business but also takes into account that the size or type of business can make the shop owner particularly hard hit by thieves.