Burglars and thieves could escape jail if they commit their crimes because of addiction to drink, drugs or gambling, under proposed sentencing guidelines.
The recommendation is contained in a consultation on how judges should punish those convicted of thefts and burglaries.
Undoubtedly there are people in prison who have addictions that should be dealt with, to the extent that it is possible, if they are to stop committing crime, however addicts should not get lighter sentences. The most obvious reason is that all that will happen is that every burglar who is caught will claim to have an addiction, it really isn't difficult to fake needle marks or collect a few old betting slips.
Drug and gambling addicts who have managed to avoid funding their habits through stealing would be entitled to be a bit miffed to learn that they could receive free treatment if they broke into people's homes and stole their belongings.
The assumption that if someone is an addict who also steals then it must be the addiction that makes him steal isn't necessarily the case. Crime is a highly impulsive form of behaviour, focusing on the perpetrator's immediate self gratification at the expense of his long term interests. Addiction is often a symptom of the same short term reasoning, in other words if you treat a drug addicted burglar's drug problem then the end result is a burglar who has something else to spend the proceeds on.