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
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
SPONSORED FEATURES
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones