Looting student jailed for 16 months
Thursday 18 August 2011
A university student was jailed for 16 months today after taking part in looting during last week's riots.
Conrad McGrath, 21, an English undergraduate at Aberystwyth University, was caught looting alcohol from a Tesco Express store in Oxford Street, Manchester.
McGrath, from Burton Street, Heaton Norris, Stockport, Greater Manchester, entered the store after a mob had forced open the shutters during disturbances on August 9.
He admitted to taking "three or four" bottles of an unknown alcohol which he dropped when police arrived at the scene.
Judge Robert Atherton told McGrath, who pleaded guilty to burglary at an earlier hearing: "You followed the example of others by squeezing under the shutter and seeing what you could steal."
The defendant, wearing a Aberystwyth University t-shirt, nodded to the bench as Judge Atherton continued: "You came into the city despite the advice of friends and your mother.
"That was stupid and you should have known better.
"You are a student at university and you have thrown away a lot. It is a heavy price to pay for such behaviour."
Prosecutors said CCTV caught a group of about 40 rioters attacking the Tesco store, forcing open external doors and an internal shutter.
So many people were pictured involved in the attack that it was "impossible" for the police to identify those who forced entry, Gavin Howie, for the prosecution, told the court when he opened the case yesterday.
Tesco said around £4,000 worth of stock had been stolen and £7,000 worth of damage was caused to the store that night.
McGrath was not among those who started the attack on the store, Mr Howie said, but was among four people squeezing through a gap in the shutters and carrying loot out of the shop when police arrived a short time later.
Daniel Gaskell, in mitigation, said of McGrath: "He had a life to look forward to and, as a result of a very brief period of offending, he is worried that all that will be swept away."
Mr Gaskell also said the student's family was "perplexed and bewildered" by his behaviour.
Another Tesco looter, apprentice bricklayer Lloyd Coudjoe, 20, was also jailed for 16 months.
He took one bottle of alcohol, the court heard, which he dropped when he tried to flee police.
He was caught when a police dog gave chase and "nipped" him, Mr Howie said.
Coudjoe, of Quenby Street, Hulme, Manchester, was told by Judge Atherton: "You saw the events in Salford before going on to watch the attack on the Arndale Centre.
"You were one who swelled the crowd and then became actively involved."
In his mitigation, Mr Gaskell described the Salford College student as a "young man who had put a troubled past behind him".
Alcoholic Thomas Downey, 48, who was caught helping himself to doughnuts from a Krispy Kreme shop, was also jailed for 16 months today.
Hapless Downey, of no fixed address, had only been released from Strangeways prison at 7.30pm that Tuesday when he found himself in the midst of the rioting.
After attending a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous, the serial offender proceeded to down a bottle of sherry and stumbled into the Krispy Kreme, in Piccadilly Gardens, which was unsecured after being attacked earlier.
He was almost immediately caught red-handed with a box of doughnuts, worth £17, when 20 riot police arrived and he was returned to custody.
Downey admitted burglary and breach of an Asbo by entering part of Manchester City Centre from which he is prohibited.
The judge told him: "You are an alcoholic. That is established by your record which shows a chronic condition.
"You drink too much, too regularly and when in drink become threatening and abusive.
"Indeed on the evening before your arrest you had been released from prison and seem to have got no further than Piccadilly.
"The shop keeper described your condition in blunt terms, 'he was pissed'."
The total cost of damage to the Krispy Kreme outlet that night was around £17,000, prosecutors said.
Downey's offending history - printed over 33 pages - included more than 100 convictions for 233 offences.
In mitigation, Zoe Nield told the court Downey left prison with just £4 in his pocket.
Although he wasn't involved in the rioting, he saw the Krispy Kreme store unsecured and helped himself because he was hungry, having spent all his money on tobacco.
She said: "He can't recall the events because he was drunk but he has expressed remorse."
Heroin addict Dane Twemlow, 28, of Westwood Avenue, Little Hulton, Salford, was caught carrying a 32-inch Sanyo television from Salford Shopping City after looting and rioting took place there.
On being arrested, at around 10.30pm on August 9, he told police he found the television dumped in a shopping trolley in a "ginnel" near the precinct.
Judge Atherton jailed Twemlow, who admitted theft, for 14 months and said he had an "appalling" criminal record.
"It is said you would have had difficulty carrying it the four or five miles home," he added. "That did not deter you from trying."
David Swarbrick, 25, received 24 months after he helped himself to £25 worth of Oil of Olay from a Quality Save store in Parker Street, which was unsecured after an earlier attack.
Swarbrick, of Aston Old Road, Openshaw, admitted burglary and breach of a suspended sentence order.
Judge Atherton said Swarbrick regarded arrest as an "occupational hazard".
"Your comment to police was that it was 'no big deal, it's only a bit of moisturiser'," the judge said.
Anthony Winder, 38, was drunk and "showing off" to pals when he went into a looted Swarovski Crystal store and smashed a display cabinet to get his hands on an ornamental dog, the court heard.
On arrest, the father-of-four told police: "What an arsehole I am," Mr Howie told the court.
"I quite understand that sentiment," Judge Atherton said.
Sentencing Winder to two years in prison, the judge said: "You are a man of considerable maturity and worldly experience.
"After a difficult early life you have made a highly respectable life for yourself and your family.
"You should have been at the forefront of leading people away from such activities but you became involved.
"Now you have thrown so much away."
A teenager who said he joined the riots to "give a voice to the underclass" was sentenced to two years and four months in a young offenders' institution.
Company director's son Michael Fitzpatrick, 18, claimed he took part in looting and theft because he "doesn't think it's fair that he works but can't afford the things he wants", Manchester Crown Court was told.
The teenager was "frog-marched" to a police station after his parents saw photos of him looting.
Michael Morley, prosecuting, said Fitzpatrick travelled into Manchester city centre from his Salford home because he heard that "riots were likely to take place".
The court was told he entered a Footasylum store in the Arndale Centre and picked up three shoes.
"Pairs?", asked Judge Andrew Gilbart QC, the Hon Recorder of Manchester.
Mr Morley replied that they were not.
The defendant dropped the shoes as police arrived and headed to a Spar supermarket where he picked up a bottle of vodka.
Fitzpatrick also entered a Bang & Olufsen store with intent to steal but nothing was left after looters ransacked the store of £70,000 of goods.
The teenager then drank from a £40 bottle of champagne, stolen from Kro Bar, which was damaged to the tune of £9,500 as rioters broke in before they carried off £10,000 in goods.
In mitigation, Rob Kearney said Fitzpatrick had "delivered some thoughts which he should have kept to himself".
"He was unrepresented when he said those things to police, he had never been in trouble before and he was unrealistic in his answers."
Mr Kearney said the "intelligent" defendant, of Greenleach Lane, Salford, had been working for his father's company until returning to further education in September when he was going to study music technology.
"He's 18 and he's a foolish young man and he is going to pay a high price today," the barrister added before saying Fitzpatrick's parents, who were present in court, were "dumbfounded" by his actions.
Judge Gilbart said it was "heartbreaking to see somebody with so much promise throw himself to the rocks".
He added: "One gets used, as a Crown Court judge, to sad cases and I don't think I have dealt with a sadder case in a long time.
"You come from a family of the utmost decency. They were horrified when they realised what happened, as I think, were you."
Jailing Fitzpatrick for two years and four months, the judge added: "I have to pass a deterrent sentence on those who took part in the disorder and went from store to store seeing what they could take as the city lay open and defenceless, protected only by those police, emergency services and shopkeepers who did what they could."
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