'Professional but not very successful' burglar sent back to prison again

Police custody photograph of Steph Bruton
Steph Bruton -Credit:South Wales Police

A burglar broke into a house and stole a bicycle which had been a gift to a schoolgirl from her late grandmother. The girl's mother said nobody could understand the upset caused by a burglary until they had experienced it for themselves and said she would never feel fully safe in her home again.

Swansea Crown Court heard Steph Bruton has six previous convictions for burglary on his record and has served a number of lengthy prison sentences. A judge described the 33-year-old as a "professional but not very successful burglar".

The court heard Bruton's most recent burglary happened on the morning on April 4 this year in Slate Street in Morriston, Swansea. James Hartson, prosecuting, said the defendant peered in through the ground-floor window of the house before forcing a key safe next to the door and taking the spare key contained within. Bruton then let himself into the property and looked through two bags in the living room, removing a pair of girl's shorts from one, before taking a bicycle and leaving the address. The court heard the homeowner was upstairs in the house at the time of the break-in but was unaware an intruder had been in her property until going downstairs at around 11am and noticing items had been moved around.

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The burglary was reported to police and an officer recognised the defendant from CCTV footage in the area. Bruton was flagged up as being wanted and he was arrested 11 days later as he walked through the Waun Wen area of Swansea. The court heard his response to being cautioned was: "I haven't done any burglaries for years". In his subsequent interview Bruton denied being in Morriston on the day in question and denied he was the person caught on camera wheeling away the stolen bike.

In an impact statement read to the court the homeowner said the bicycle had been a gift to her daughter from her now-late grandmother and had great sentimental value. She said the cycle meant a great deal to her daughter and she hoped the defendant would have the decency to reveal what happened to it or where it was. The woman said the burglary had left her feeling "jumpy" and had prompted her to install door alarms at the property and she said nobody could fully understand the emotional impact of being the victim of a burglary until it happened to them. She added she did not think she would ever feel fully safe in the house again. For the latest court reports sign up to our crime newsletter here.

Steph Bruton, of Fifth Avenue, Clase, Swansea, had previously pleaded guilty to burglary when he appeared in the dock via videolink from Swansea prison for sentencing. He has 21 previous convictions for 38 offences including dwelling burglaries in 2005, two in 2009, 2010, 2015, and 2018. The 2015 burglary saw him smashing a rear window of a neighbour's house when he was living in the Uplands area of Swansea and ransacking the property before stealing televisions, a laptop, and a ring given to the homeowner by her mother. He has been given a mandatory minimum sentence as a so-called third-strike burglar on four previous convictions. Bruton's last conviction was for affray in Morriston's Woodfield Street in June 2022 for which he received a six-month custodial sentence.

Andrew Evans, for Bruton, said the misuse of controlled substances, and in particular Valium, had dogged much of the defendant's adult life. He said his client had been drug and offence-free for 19 months following his last custodial sentence but by the time of the Morriston burglary was "sofa surfing" and misusing Valium again. The advocate said Bruton wished to apologise to his victims.

Recorder Greg Bull KC said burglary was often regarded as being an offence against the person as much as an against property because of the impact on victims. He said it was clear from Bruton's record that he was "a professional but not very successful burglar". With a one-third discount for his guilty plea the defendant was sentenced to 32 months in prison. He will serve up to half that period in custody before being released on licence to serve the remainder in the community.

As the defendant left the prison video booth at the end of the hearing he said heard to say he was happy with the sentence. The stolen bike has never been recovered.

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