Prosecuting Counsel told Ms Recorder Jones at Southwark Crown Court that in some of the burglaries knives and baseball bats had “been displaced, doubtless for use if the owner returned”; that the burglars’ “untidy searches” had aggravated owners’ losses; some owners were uninsured; one elderly owner had been so distressed he had to retreat to a care home.
BSB’s Craig Crosbie, mitigating, told Southwark Crown Court “Mr N had entered the UK in 2014. He worked in carwashes and other menial jobs, but by April 2016 was jobless and homeless. Depressed, desperate, unable to claim benefit, he fell in with Pop – who plied him with cannabis and cocaine. Throughout 2016’s early summer they stalked north-west London’s suburban streets. An unanswered knock at a house was an invitation to jimmy their way in. But their fingers left prints. As winter approached, police caught Pop. He confessed. A judge at Harrow crown court gave him 64 months’ gaol.
“Meanwhile Mr N fled to Luton. Alone and hungry, he bedded down one evening behind a Chinese restaurant. The owner, Mr Tong, came across him and, short of staff, took him inside. Next morning Mr Tong found Mr N had cleaned the whole kitchen ‘I was so impressed with the cleaning I decided to teach him the stuff he needed to learn. He learns a skill so quickly. He is a responsible person – I give him a task, he always finishes on time or before the time given. But he gets paranoid and distracted by police car siren. Gradually he opens himself to me. He told me he done the burglary with no choice cause he is a drug addict and his friend forced him to commit the burglary. And I treat him like my brother as he would help me with all his heart. He says he will not go back to old way and stay with his bad friend’
So – ironically, while ‘bad friend’ Pop rotted in gaol, Mr N was learning Chinese cuisine.
But in July this year, the Met’s long arm reached him. He was arrested in his chef’s apron and hat on a cigarette break outside the restaurant.”
Giving sentence the learned Recorder told Mr N he “had stumbled across a Good Samaritan in Mr Tong”. Despite his crimes, Mr N had demonstrated his capacity for hard work not to mention the trust and loyalty to Mr Tong and his team at the Chinese restaurant. He had turned his life around. Despite her duty to the victims and even though the offences clearly passed the custody threshold – (Pop’s 64-month gaol sentence!)- she was just able, on balance, to suspend the sentence. She thanked BSB’s counsel for his help.