COLUMN: Gone But Not Forgetting

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THE UNIQUE thoughts on life of former Dispatch chief reporter Denis Robinson.

A JUDGE sparked a furious reaction when he praised a burglar for having the ‘courage’ to break into people’s homes.

“I wouldn’t have the nerve,” said His Honour Judge Peter Bowers at Teesside Crown Court.

Expressing his view that prison ‘rarely does anyone any good’, the judge gave 26-year-old Richard Rochford a one-year prison sentence suspended for 18 months.

Judge Bowers said he had synpathy with Rochford, who became addicted to the heroin treatment drug, Subutex, while he was serving a three-year term for arson.

The judge told him: “I don’t think anyone would benefit if I sent you to prison today.”

The astonishing comments were condemned by victims of burglaries and the judge has also been lambasted in the national media.

Daily Mail columnist Richard Littlejohn claimed that Judge Bowers had ‘spat in the face of everyone who battles disadvantage and disability without resorting to crime and self-pity’.

He added: “He also insulted all those who selflessly display courage every single day, including troops on the front line in Afghanistan.”

Courage is certainly not a word I would have used to describe the man who burgled my home in Bulwell ten years ago while I was at work and my mother, the late Kathleen Robinson. then aged 90, was there on her own.

The burglar got into the house when he climbed over a side wall while mum was in the back garden. When my mother went back in the house, she saw the man coming out of the living room. She asked him: “What are you doing in my house?”

The burglar ran out through the front door and we later found that he had stolen £400 cash plus a box of small change, some of the coins jumping out on to the street as he made his getaway.

I recall a judge at Nottingham Crown Court, the late Keith Matthewman QC, who took a far different approach to dealing with burglaries, consistently imposing stiff sentences.

One case that stands out in my memory took place exactly 25 years ago. It involved a 20-year-old Hucknall man who had pleaded guilty at Nottingham Magistrates Court to burglaries and assaulting a 16-year-old youth he thought had ‘grassed’ on him.

He was ordered to do 240 hours’ community service and to pay £821 compensation at the rate of £10 a week. The defendant thought the sentence was too harsh, especially the financial penalty, and lodged an appeal.

This was heard by Judge Matthewman, sitting with two magistrates. The judge said the original sentence was too lenient and gave the 20-year-old a youth custody sentence of 12 months.

I covered the appeal for the Dispatch and I will never forget the shocked look on the defendant’s face as he was led to the cells.


Former Dispatch

chief reporter