Soldier's career in ruins over riots

The Army career of a serving soldier is in ruins after he was locked up for eight months today for buying a stolen guitar during the August disturbances and then trying to sell it on.

Liam Bretherton, 20, was in Manchester city centre at the height of the widespread civil disorder when he paid £20 to a unknown man in the street for the instrument, which had just been looted from a nearby music store.



Two days later Bretherton, a member of the 7th Parachute Regiment Royal Horse Artillery, went into a music shop in his home town of Leigh, Greater Manchester, and offered them the rare left-handed Les Gibson guitar, valued at nearly £2,000.



The shop owner became suspicious, locked the doors and called the police when he confirmed with the other store that it had been taken during a large-scale raid on its premises on August 9.



Manchester Crown Court heard Bretherton then appeared "agitated" and "the colour drained from his face" as he said: "I'm in the Army."



He was arrested and went on to plead guilty to handling stolen goods.



His counsel pleaded for a suspended sentence today as any jail term would lead to him being kicked out of the Army, but Judge Anthony Gee QC said he would be "failing in my duty" to impose anything but immediate custody.



The judge said: "You have to face the consequences of what you did and what you did amounts to a very serious offence



"I regard yours as an extremely sad case. It is sad because you are a young man who all that know you have spoken highly of, but you well know that courts dealing with cases like this have a duty and obligation to punish those involved and deter others who may be minded to act like you did in the future."



Bretherton, of Larch Road, was told he would serve half his sentence in a young offenders institution before being released.







Gavin Howie, prosecuting, said Bretherton told police he played no part in the looting of Dawsons Music in Portland Street.



He had been out celebrating his 20th birthday with friends but came into the city centre after he admitted he was "nosey" about the events unfolding.



"He said a man approached him in the street and offered to sell the guitar to him for £20," Mr Howie said. "He thought 'why not' and took it back to his car."



The guitar was of no practical use to him because it was left-handed, but he later learned through internet searches that it was valued at far more than the buying price and a huge profit was possible.



He shared the news with friends online and one friend replied: "Oh my God. You lucky boy", said the prosecutor.



The bid to sell on the guitar to Heybrook Music in Leigh then followed.



David Temkin, defending, said Bretherton was not involved in the violence or the burglary but he could not ignore the fact he had gone voluntarily to the city centre out of curiosity.



He was near to the offending and provided an "immediate market" for the stolen goods, he said.



But Mr Temkin urged the judge to consider a suspended sentence because of his early guilty plea, his sense of shame that he had brought upon himself and his family, his previous impeccable character and an "exemplary record" in the Forces.



A captain of the regiment, who sat in the public gallery with the defendant's parents, reported that Bretherton was among the top 15% of performers in physical terms in the British Army, added Mr Temkin.



Having been with the regiment for three years, he had served two months in Afghanistan and was on 48-hour notice to go anywhere in the world.



"This dreadful blip in his life does nothing to suggest the responsibility and sense of morality he otherwise displays," he said.



Judge Gee said Bretherton had advantages in life that perhaps others who came before the courts in similar circumstances did not.



He went on: "I accept you were not part of the attack on the store, neither did you enter the store.



"But the fact you were present in the city centre at the time was an extremely foolish thing for you to do and also may be viewed as lending support to what was going on.



"You came into possession of that expensive guitar that you knew must have come from the looted store and two days later you tried to profit from it by selling it."



He concluded immediate custody only could be justified but said: "I will keep it as short as I can, knowing you will suffer the consequences of losing your career in the Army but in my judgment I will be failing in my duty were I to follow the course suggested by Mr Temkin."

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Books should be for everyone, says Els, 8. Publisher Scholastic now agrees
booksAn eight-year-old saw a pirate book was ‘for boys’ and took on the publishers
Life and Style
Mary Beard received abuse after speaking positively on 'Question Time' about immigrant workers: 'When people say ridiculous, untrue and hurtful things, then I think you should call them out'
tech
Life and Style
Most mail-order brides are thought to come from Thailand, the Philippines and Romania
life
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
Voices
Margaret Thatcher, with her director of publicity Sir Gordon Reece, who helped her and the Tory Party to victory in 1979
voicesThe subject is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for former PR man DJ Taylor
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions