DWP: Man burgled property after benefits were sanctioned and he hadn’t eaten for two days – Gazette Live
A masked burglar who invaded a home and ripped out piping and radiator fittings has been freed as a judge decided to give him a last chance.
Lee Sullivan, 28, was a “third strike” burglar facing a minimum prison sentence of three years – but in the end he regained his liberty.
Judge Sean Morris told him: “I’m taking a pretty exceptional course, but if you let me down, I’ll have you. Do you understand?”
Police caught him inside wearing dark clothing, covering his face and carrying a bag containing “a torch and an assortment of tools”.
He had three radiator valves in his pocket when he was arrested at the three-bedroom semi-detached property at about 3am.
As he was taken into custody he said: “It was the towel radiator. I didn’t even get down the stairs.”
He went on to apologise and tell officers he was disgusted with his actions.
The bathroom radiator was found at the bottom of the stairs with pipe work missing, and the front door lock had been snapped.
It would cost £770 to replace the door and repair the radiator and pipes, Teesside Crown Court heard on Monday.
A business impact statement told of the damaging effects and costs of the burglary.
Sullivan, of Langsett Avenue, Berwick Hills, Middlesbrough, admitted burglary and breaching bail by failing to turn up to court in April.
He had two previous home burglaries on his record – one removing a boiler from an unoccupied home when he was 16 in 2007, another in 2015.
He had other convictions for robbery, theft and a prison sentence for possessing heroin with intent to supply.
Paul Cleasby, mitigating, argued it was unjust to impose a jail term of at least three years for the “three strikes” burglary.
He said: “Your Honour is not dealing with a traditional house burglary in this instance.
“He thought that he had been doing rather well to keep out of trouble.
“Regrettably his benefits were sanctioned and he found himself desperate for money and for electricity.
“His biggest fear is relapsing into a drug addiction.”
Mr Cleasby asked the judge said “a final opportunity to prove his worth” and “keep him on a short leash”.
Sullivan intended to recompense the house landlord for the damage with money from a successful benefits appeal.
Sentencing, Judge Morris told Sullivan: “You were without electricity and food. You hadn’t eaten for two days.
“You chose to burgle an empty house, and that’s why you are here as a third strike burglar.
“If this had been a normal dwelling house burglary where somebody’s home was invaded while they were in or out of the house, I’d have no hesitation in imposing the minimum sentence.
“But looking at the pre-sentence report you had made, apart from this, quite impressive strides to rid yourself of drug addiction.
“This was not fuelled by drugs. If it was, you would not be getting the benefit of a suspended sentence.”
He gave Sullivan a 19-month jail term suspended for two years with 30 days’ rehabilitation activity, adding: “I don’t want to see you again.”
Appearing in court via prison video link, Sullivan said: “Thank you, your Honour.”
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