Judge Peter Bowers Praises Thief At Teesside Crown Court For 'Courageous Break Ins'

Judge Praises Thief For 'Courageous Break Ins'

A judge which told a thief his break-ins took courage and let him off with a suspended prison sentence is to be investigated by the judicial watchdog.

Judge Peter Bowers told an offender who raided three homes in five days: "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."

Handing 26-year-old Richard Rochford, from Redcar, a suspended 12-month term at Teesside Crown Court on Tuesday the judge said: "I'm going to take a chance on you."

Judge Peter Bowers told the court he knew he would be "pilloried" for his decision

After the comments sparked "a number of complaints" the case is to be probed by the Office for Judicial Complaints. A spokesperson for the watchdog told the BBC:

"Those complaints will be considered under the Judicial Discipline Regulations in the usual way. It would not be appropriate to comment further at this stage."

Judge Bowers' conduct will be investigated by the OJC and if complaints are upheld the case will be passed to the Lord Chief Justice and the Lord Chancellor, who will consider if disciplinary action is needed.

They have the power to advise, warn, reprimand or remove a judge for misconduct.

According to the Evening Gazette newspaper, the judge said he "might get pilloried" after Tuesday's remarks, but claimed jail would not do much good in this case.

He acknowledged the trauma burglary victims face, but said he would not jail Rochford, who had quit drugs since the February break-ins.

Instead Rochford must complete a two-year supervision order with drug rehabilitation and 200 hours' unpaid work, with a one-year driving ban.

The judge admitted he may be criticised, but said as the burglar was now off drugs he was "going to take a chance on him"

The Prime Minister, who revealed he had been burgled twice, branded such robberies "hateful".

Speaking on the ITV programme Daybreak, Mr Cameron admitted he had not seen the details of the case, but added: "I am very clear that burglary is not bravery. Burglary is cowardice. Burglary is a hateful crime.

"People sometimes say it is not a violent crime, but actually if you have been burgled, you do feel it was violence.

"I have a very clear view about this, which is burglary is a despicable and hateful crime.

"I have been burgled twice. You feel completely violated. When someone has smashed their way into your house and stolen your possessions...

"I am very clear that people who repeatedly burgle should be sent to prison."

Cameron said he had been burgled twice, an act he described as "despicable"

He added: "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 judge's comments drew a furious response from David Hines, chairman of the National Victims' Association.

He said: "What message does this send out to society? Quite frankly it is outrageous. The criminal justice system has let the victims down.

"Burglars are going to believe that judges think they are courageous. I think this judge is on a different wavelength to everyone else."

Mr Hines, from Jarrow, South Tyneside, set up the association after his daughter Marie was murdered aged 23 in 1992.

"I have been doing this for 20 years now and the criminal justice system has been getting diluted and diluted, getting weaker," he said.

"I am sick of hearing how victims are at the heart of the criminal justice system - doesn't this prove that they are not?

"Burglars are not courageous, they are probably doped up on drugs.

"People who are courageous, to me, are soldiers, nurses and policemen."

One barrister who works at Teesside Crown Court expressed surprise at Judge Bowers' remarks.

He tweeted: "I am amazed by this, if true, as he is one of the toughest sentencing judges in Teesside."

Judge Bowers, who was sitting today at Teesside Crown Court, would not be censured for his remarks and judges are independent to make comments while sentencing, a spokesman for the Judiciary of England and Wales said.

He declined to comment further.


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