Smartphone thieves will be punished more severely for stealing smartphones because of the emotional distress it causes victims.
Thieves in England and Wales who steal smartphones may face harsher punishment, according to new guidelines.
The Sentencing Council’s paper, titled Theft Offences: Definitive Guideline, explains that when it comes to theft, judges will now consider the impact “beyond financial loss”.
While that remains a key consideration – many high-end smartphones are expensive – it is understood that the fallout for victims is much more complex.
“Smartphone theft can cause emotional distress, loss of confidence and great disruption and inconvenience.”
The council stated that such offences “can cause emotional distress, loss of confidence and great disruption and inconvenience”.
This update reflects the fact that smartphones have become a repository for all sorts of personal and professional assets and belongings, including banking details, photographs and sensitive data.
“Judicial thinking has evolved in part because technology has evolved,” Lord Justice Treacy, chairman of the Sentencing Council, told the Guardian.
“People carry their whole lives on their smartphones or other devices, their pictures, their personal message[s], but also potential sensitive financial data and organisational data.
“We think it’s right that not only the value of the phone, but the emotional distress of losing precious photographs, and the considerable inconvenience that losing a smartphone can cause, should be taken into account when a device is stolen.”
He concluded that a lot of people, on discovering their device has been stolen, will be anxious about what thieves may do with their data.
Last month it was reported that the The Department for Homeland Security in the US is working with the Boeing Company to develop a so-called “brain chip” that would allow any smartphone to “self-destruct”.
The technology behind the device can detect whether it has been stolen because it has learnt its user’s behavior – any deviation is seen as suspect. In such an instance, it will then delete all sensitive information.