Detention for woman over riot theft
Tuesday 15 November 2011
A teenager who stole two left-footed trainers after crawling into a looted shop has been detained for a month for each second she spent inside the premises.
The family of Danielle Corns reacted furiously at Wolverhampton Crown Court as the 19-year-old RAF hopeful was sentenced to 10 months in a Young Offenders Institution.
Corns, from Willenhall, near Wolverhampton, pleaded guilty to burglary last month after an investigation into rioting which broke out in the centre of the city on August 9.
CCTV footage of the disorder showed Corns, described in court as a "well-mannered, well-presented and polite" young woman, entering Wolverhampton's Zhapp fashion store after others had smashed their way in through metal shutters.
Corns, who was also caught on CCTV as she watched others break into the shop, emerged 10 seconds later clutching the footwear, which she discarded in the street shortly afterwards.
Her barrister Simon Rippon described her actions as a stupid, spur-of-the-moment act of criminality which in total had lasted for less than a minute.
But prosecutor Hugh O'Brien-Quinn told the court that the affected store had suffered around £5,000 worth of damage and seen an overall loss of around £30,000 as a result of the looting, which occurred amid a national background of widespread rioting.
The premises in Queen Street were covered by CCTV, Mr O'Brien-Quinn said, which showed Corns, of Tildesley Drive, among a large group of people involved in disorder.
Outlining the facts of the case to judge John Warner, Mr O'Brien-Quinn said: "She was seen in the area of three different shops that were looted, in particular the clothing store Zhapp.
"The following day the (Wolverhampton) Express and Star printed a number of images of people who had been captured on CCTV during the disorder and this defendant's image was one of those.
"The following day, she attended a police station with her mother and said she had not been involved in any way."
Passing sentence, Mr Warner said it was clear that Corns had been loitering in the city centre on August 9.
Accepting that Corns had followed others into the store, the judge said the offenders had contributed to and collectively caused losses to the shop running into thousands of pounds.
The judge, who said he had reduced the sentence to take into account difficulties in Corns's personal life, said the 10-month term was the shortest sentence consistent with his public duty.
Corns' barrister told the court that the A-level student, who hoped to join the RAF to work as a cabin crew member, had been dropped off in the city centre by her mother to do some shopping.
Mr Rippon said his client would have gone on to lead an entirely law-abiding life if she had not been caught up in the "maelstrom" of the events in Wolverhampton.
Claiming that Corns had been "pilloried" by sections of the media for her stupidity in stealing two left-footed trainers, the defence lawyer added: "She has been vilified by the press and no doubt she will continue to be ridiculed by them.
"The fact is she did get caught up in it and did something extremely stupid.
"She was, as Your Honour can see, making no attempt to hide her identity - she had no need to as she had no intention of committing any unlawful action.
"She didn't play a role in any violence and she didn't herself smash her way into the shop. The act of criminal stupidity lasted less than a minute."
Corns retained her composure as she was told her fate by the judge, but began to cry after a woman in the public gallery leapt to her feet and screamed abuse towards reporters.
The middle-aged woman shouted to the judge: "No, no, no ... that's wrong. How can you do that to somebody?"
The woman, who Judge Warner addressed as being Danielle's mother as he asked her to calm down, then turned to the dock and shouted: "Danielle, we will appeal for this."
Other relatives declined to comment on the sentence as they left the court and Corns' solicitor said he had not been authorised to make any statement on the family's behalf.
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