15:59 06 September 2012
When Judge Peter Bowers was sentencing Richard Rochford for a string of burglaries, he repeatedly described his actions as "courageous", creating a media storm which has even drawn the Prime Minister into the debate.
David Cameron has responded, saying that burglars are actually "cowards".
Cameron was speaking on the breakfast show Daybreak, when he related his opinion of the matter to the audience: "I’m very clear, burglary is not bravery, it’s cowardice.
"I've been burgled twice, you feel completely violated when someone has smashed their way into your house. Burglary is a despicable and hateful crime."
Cameron condemned the judge who gave Rochford a suspended sentence instead of a two-and-a-half-year kail term. Judge Bowers claimed that prison "very rarely does anybody any good."
Teesside Crown Court heard how Rochford, 26, burgled three homes in East Cleveland and attempted to burgle another all within the space of five. His motive was to fund a drug addiction he acquired while in prison for another offence.
Judge Bowers seemingly knew the controversy of his decision to let Rochford go home, stating at the time that "I might get pilloried for it."
Passing sentence, Judge Bowers told the accused: "It takes a huge amount of courage as far as I can see for someone to burgle somebody’s house. I wouldn’t have the nerve.
"Yet somehow, bolstered by drugs and desperation, you were prepared to do that.’ The judge 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."
The move has angered the victims of the crime. Mark Clayton, of Lingdale, North Yorkshire, was a victim of one of Rochford's comments. Quoted by the BBC, he condemned the Judge: "How can a man who is burgling houses be told it takes courage and be let off? He hasn't learnt anything from his mistakes.
"What is courage? I did 22 years with Her Majesty's forces. I've done a lot of things that took immense courage.
"The judge has been too lenient towards this guy's mental state. It's hardly fair.
"I don't know anything about the prison service, but I'm sure it's all about rehabilitating people. That's why it's there.
In related news, the Prime Minister also spoke out about the Crown Prosecution Service's decision not to charge a couple arrested in Leicestershire for shooting at two burglars in their home.
"That is why this Government is actually changing the law to toughen the rules on self-defence against burglars, saying householders have the right to defend themselves," the Prime Minister said.
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