'It takes a huge amount of courage to burgle somebody's house': What judge told intruder who raided three homes before letting him walk free from court
- Judge Peter Bowers admitted he could be 'pilloried' for his controversial decision
- Richard Rochford was facing a two-and-a-half-year jail term for four burglaries
- Judge said prison had harmed him after he developed an addiction to a heroin treatment drug
A judge left a courtroom startled when he claimed burglars have 'courage' when they break into homes as he let a serial intruder walk free from his court.
Judge Peter Bowers also said that prison did little good for anyone and admitted he could be 'pilloried' for his decision to let Richard Rochford go free after he admitted to a string of burglaries.
Rochford was facing a term of two-and-a-half years when the judge decided against custody, accepting Rochford had been harmed by prison after he became addicted to a heroin treatment drug while serving a sentence.
Controversial: Judge Peter Bowers admitted he could be 'pilloried' for his decision to let Richard Rochford go free after he admitted to a string of burglaries
He told Teesside Crown Court yesterday: 'It takes a huge amount of courage as far as I can see for somebody to burgle somebody’s house. I wouldn’t have the nerve.
'Yet somehow, bolstered by drugs and desperation, you were prepared to do that,' he told Rochford, 26.
He also said Rochford had been damaged by prison and added: 'I think prison very rarely does anybody any good. It mostly leaves people the chance to change their own mind if they want to.
'I don’t think anybody would benefit from sending you to prison today. We’d all just feel a bit easier that a burglar had been taken off the streets.'
Rochford burgled three homes in East Cleveland and tried to burgle another in the space of five days.
Court: Richard Rochford was facing a term of two-and-a-half years when the judge decided against custody
He took a laptop, a satnav, money and car keys along with jewellery and a handbag amongst other items.
Judge Bowers said he deserved to be jailed for two-and-a-half years, and anything less would not satisfy the public.
But instead he gave Rochford a two year supervision order, and the threat of a 30 month jail sentence if he appeared in court again.
Judge Bowers acknowledged that the victims would have suffered as a result of the crimes, adding: 'For months and months and sometimes years, they never recover.'
The court heard Rochford had rid himself of a drug habit since the burglaries in February.
Judge Bowers said: 'What you’ve done since I find rather extraordinary and something which doesn’t often happen.
'I’m going to take a chance on you, an extraordinary chance, one which I don’t often take.'
He followed the recommendation of a pre-sentence report and gave Rochford, of Redcar, a two-year supervision order with drug rehabilitation and 200 hours’ unpaid work, with a one-year driving ban.
He added: 'If I see you across the court again, you start with 30 months for that. I won’t take any excuses. You’ve been given an extraordinary chance. I might get pilloried for it.
'But if you turn up, do the right thing, then I’ll have done the right thing. You let me down and you let yourself down.'
Three months ago, Judge Peter Bowers criticised sentencing guidelines for recommending a 'slap across the wrist' for first-time burglars.
Yesterday’s court appearance was Rochford’s first conviction for burglary, and had previously been cautioned for burgling a home when he was aged just 10.
Lenient: Judge Bowers, sitting at Teesside Crown Court, pictured, gave Rochford a two year supervision order and urged him not to 'let me down and yourself down'
He has a previous conviction was for arson, and was jailed for three years for that offence.
During a series of raids, he broke into a home and took a laptop, a satnav, money and the keys to a Ford Focus on February 12 this year.
He took the car, with his then girlfriend as a passenger, to their home.
He damaged the car, tried to abandon it in an alley and failed to take a bend.
The following night he burgled a home on Wand Hill, Boosbeck, and took property including jewellery, a handbag and electrical items.
Kyme, 22, acted as a lookout in the Boosbeck burglary and disposed of some of the stolen possessions at a second hand goods shop.
Both homes were unlocked and he walked in while the occupants slept.
Rochford admitted two burglaries and asked for one more burglary and one attempted burglary to be taken into account. Kyme, of Redcar, admitted burglary and handling stolen goods.
Each admitted a charge of aggravated vehicle taking.
Graham Brown, defending, said Rochford’s downfall occurred when he was introduced to the heroin treatment drug Subutex while in prison, then the 'ravages' caused by heroin addiction outside.
He said: 'It scarred his life. The system failed him.'
He said Rochford had a 'major wake-up call', a 'damascene conversion' and had 'seen the light'. He confessed, co-operated with police and stopped using drugs.
He added Rochford was a caring man who felt remorse for his 'inexcusable' crimes.
Rochford had support from his family and a job offer as a labourer and wanted to move on to lead a useful, constructive, crime-free life.
Peter Wishlade, for Kyme who had no previous convictions, said she was 'distinctly remorseful' and unlikely to end up in court again.
The young mother, currently pregnant with her second child, had separated from Rochford, is said to have come off drugs and was supported by family including her uncle, a serving police officer.
She was given a one-year prison sentence suspended for 18 months with a 20-week 7pm to 7am curfew.