The father of Fred Barras, the teenage burglar shot dead by the Norfolk farmer Tony Martin, was jailed for 14 years yesterday for his part in a "professional" armed raid.
Lawyers for Fred Barras, 45, used his 16-year-old son's death in August 1999 as mitigation for his criminal actions after he was found guilty of playing a leading part in a robbery in which his gang made off in three stolen vehicles with clothes worth thousands of pounds. "There may be some connection with events of his recent life in relation to the tragic death of his son and his turn to crime," David Sumner, for the defence, told Judge Peter Charlesworth.
But the judge at Leeds Crown Court also heard of Barras's extensive criminal record dating back to 1969 when, as a juvenile, he was fined for assault causing bodily harm. His subsequent crimes have included assaulting police, reckless driving, having no licence and handling stolen goods (1974), theft (1975), obstructing police and having no driving licence or insurance (1979), theft (1980) and obstructing police, threatening behaviour and traffic offences (1991). He was also convicted of battery and drink-driving last year.
In sentencing Barras, the judge told him: "You took a leading part in a very serious planned robbery in which a gun was put to the temple of the lone female security officer in the middle of the night at a depot, in which valuable vehicles and, above all, easily disposable valuable clothing was kept." The robbery was "professional", had involved knowledge of the depot and a "considerable" amount of planning. "It was executed in a very professional manner," said the judge.
The jury was told the security guard, Lisa Taylor, was on duty alone at a distribution centre in Normanton, West Yorkshire, in the early hours of May 29 last year when she noticed the screen on a security monitor go blank. As she checked the wiring, she heard the handle of the security door being turned and then someone knocking. She opened the door and was confronted by a man wearing dark clothing and a balaclava, who pointed a handgun at her head and ordered her to lie on the floor.
A second man entered the office and tied up Miss Taylor with plastic flex, while asking her about the site's security arrangements. He had a distinctive Irish accent and, when nine voice samples were later played to her, she picked out Barras's voice. Police traced two of the stolen vehicles to a disused airfield hangar where Barras was living, and arrested him.
He denied conspiracy to rob and an alternative charge of conspiracy to handle stolen goods.
The judge explained to the jury why he had prevented disclosure of the link with Barras's son throughout the eight-day trial, until their eight hours of deliberation were complete. "It could make you think that his son was a burglar, therefore he's a bad lot, or it could have had the other effect, that you felt sorry for him," he said.
Charges against the grandmother of the late Fred Barras, Elizabeth Barras, 69, of possessing a firearm and assisting an offender, were left on the file as she is too ill to stand trial.
Martin, 55, who was jailed for life in April last year for the murder of Mr Barras's son, is appealing against his sentence.
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