A lesser man than me would make some sort of sexist joke about women and handbags, but it’s a sad tale for Jayne Rand, a 48 year old of good character (she’d never been in trouble with the police before) who was sentenced to 18 months on 18th October 2013.
Over a period of about three years Ms Rand, noticing the price that designer handbags could attract on ebay, stole 905 handbags from various stores all over the country. There were not particularly sophisticated thefts – Ms Rand simply walked into a shop without a bag, picked one up, and walked around for a while before leaving with it. Sometimes there was a tag that needed to be removed, but not always.
The total value of the stock taken was about £130,000 (about £140 per bag), but hey would obviously have been sold for more than that. When working out which figure is the basis on which the ‘loss’ would have been calculated, it would normally be the ‘retail’ value. Whilst we do not have the sentencing remarks, it would appear that the Judge may have taken the wholesale value, in fairness to Ms Rand.
Although the thefts themselves were not particularly sophisticated, the Judge commented that the fact that she got away with it for such a long period of time was quite surprising, and displayed an element of professionalism.
Further, Ms Rand had effectively set up a part-time business selling them on ebay, which netted her about £88,000 (which may well be the subject of confiscation proceedings in due course). More significantly, it seems that she moved to ‘stealing to order’ certain bag, which is another aggravating features.
So, what of the sentence? The Theft from a Shop guidelines (page 16) are the starting point. It seems that the Judge must have felt that the case was so unusual as to be outside the guidelines (also, it appears that there may have been other charges relating to Money Laundering – the selling of the handbags).
As Ms Rand was acting on her own, even allowing for there being a ‘very high degree of planning‘, the starting point is 6 weeks custody (with a range of a Community Order up to 36 weeks custody).
Allowing for a plea of guilty (it seems that this was a case where there was an early one), the starting point of the Judge would have been 2 years and 3 months.
We can expect an appeal in this case. It seems to me that, notwithstanding the high planning and the fact of selling on the handbags makes the case a lot more serious than that suggested by the guidelines, this sentence is still too high given everything.
Whilst appeals are not often successful, particularly in cases that attract lots of media attention, it would not surprise me if the sentence was reduced to perhaps 12 months.