Judge in the dock over 'bravery' remark to burglar

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The Independent Online

A judge is to be investigated for potential judicial misconduct after telling a court it took courage to commit burglary.

His Honour Judge Peter Bowers made his comment sitting at Teesside Crown Court on Tuesday and is to be investigated by the Office for Judicial Complaints (OJC).

The OJC was set up in 2006 to look into allegations of personal misconduct against judges. If it finds against him, it will send a report to the Lord Chancellor and the Lord Chief Justice who have the power to advise, warn or reprimand, or to remove judges from their posts.

The investigation was announced by the OJC, citing "a number of complaints", soon after the Prime Minister had contradicted the judge by telling ITV's Daybreak show: "I am very clear that burglary is not bravery. Burglary is cowardice. Burglary is a hateful crime. I have been burgled twice. You feel completely violated. I am very clear that people who repeatedly burgle should be sent to prison."

Judge Bowers told a defendant who had burgled three homes in five days and attempted another: "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. Yet somehow, bolstered by drugs and desperation, you were prepared to do that."

He acknowledged the trauma that victims of burglary suffer but said jail would be unlikely to help the defendant, Richard Rochford, from Redcar. Instead he gave him a suspended 12-month prison term, after hearing that he had given up drugs following the burglaries in February.

"I'm going to take a chance on you," the judge added. "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."

Tory MP Philip Davies called the judge an idiot: "There has been a great deal of concern about lily- livered judges, not least from me. How can we make sure that idiots like this are no longer in the judiciary?"

David Hines, chairman of the National Victims' Association, said: "Burglars are going to believe that judges think they are courageous. I think this judge is on a different wavelength to everyone else."