Star Wars mask-wearing burglar gets jail time cut
The judge sentencing a Stormtrooper mask-wearing burglar should have had more of an eye to the overall length of his jail term, the Court of Appeal said.
Richard Harris, then 44, was handed a three year prison sentence last August for break-ins at a pub and two businesses in and around Great Milton over a 24-hour period.
They included removing the till from The Bull pub, where hours earlier the burglar had left his novelty Star Wars Stormtrooper mask, stealing workers’ belongings and office equipment from a ride-on lawnmower manufacturer, and taking boxes of vitamins from the doorway of a dental lab near Wheatley.
Judge Michael Gledhill KC imposed a total sentence of three years’ imprisonment when he sentenced Harris at Oxford Crown Court last year. It was made up of two lots of 18 months.
Lawyers for the thief took the case to the Court of Appeal, arguing at London’s Royal Courts of Justice on Thursday (February 2) that the sentence was excessive.
The panel of three justices agreed, reducing Harris’ sentence from three years to two years and three months.
Giving the court’s judgement, Mrs Justice Cutts said the judge had been ‘right in the circumstances of this case to place the burglaries collectively in category one harm’ – the top category in the Sentencing Council’s guidelines for non-dwelling burglary.
However, they agreed with Harris' lawyers that Judge Gledhill had ‘failed to give sufficient weight to the principle of totality’. That principle requires judges to step back when they are dealing with an offender for multiple offences and consider whether the overall sentence is too high.
Mrs Justice Cutts noted that the judge’s sentence before credit for Harris’ guilty plea was taken into account would have been four years’ imprisonment.
“Serious though it was, we consider that too high for this offending, which occurred in a short time frame,” she said.
The sentence of three years was quashed and replaced with 27 months’ imprisonment.
Last year, the crown court heard that Harris had long struggled with drug addiction and had a lengthy list of previous convictions, with a significant jail sentence in the early 2000s for robbery.
After coming out of prison he managed to stay out of trouble for the best part of a decade.
However, the breakdown of his relationship led to further offending from 2015 and a return to drug use.
Sentencing him last year, Judge Gledhill told Harris: “You say you haven’t had the support that you need. You may be right, I don’t know. But if you’re not resolved to get off drugs no amount of support will get you off drugs.”
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This story was written by Tom Seaward. He joined the team in 2021 as Oxfordshire's court and crime reporter.
To get in touch with him email: Tom.Seaward@newsquest.co.uk
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