Suspended sentence for robber, 74
Saturday 29 August 1992
Judge Francis Aglionby took pity on Charles Cowden, 74, after hearing he staged the raid on the Harpenden Building Society in Radlett, Hertfordshire - armed with an air pistol, two smoke grenades and a knife - in an effort to save a sick female friend from spending the rest of her life in an old people's home.
Giving him a two-year jail sentence, suspended for two years, the judge told Cowden that he could not recollect ever having been involved in a case where a person convicted of an offence involving weapons 'had not been sent to prison for a long time.
'But it seems to me that despite the fact that society's disapproval of this kind of activity has to be marked with a heavy sentence of imprisonment, there are a sufficient number of peculiar factors in your case which allow me to take a course of mercy.'
The judge said Cowden, of Kilburn, north-west London, was not a fit man and he was providing constant attention for Rosie Hiscock, also 74 - with whom he had lived for 20 years - who was 'grievously afflicted' with various medical conditions.
As he left court Scots-born Cowden, who admitted attempted robbery and possessing a firearm, said: 'The judge has been very fair. A prison sentence would have been a death sentence for me and for Mrs Hiscock.'
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