Men found guilty of handling stolen goods

First published in Local

A MAN wanted for a burglary was arrested after he and his half-brother were seen unloading stolen garden equipment at their sister's Redditch home.

Despite overwhelming evidence against them, Lee Stephens and his half-brother James Andrews both denied handling stolen property but were found guilty by a jury at Warwick Crown Court.

Stephens, aged 33, of Beauchamp Road, Alcester, was jailed for nine months – consecutive to a three-year sentence he is already serving for burglary.

Andrews, 20, also of Beauchamp Road, was sentenced to five months detention.

During their trial prosecutor Shane Crawford said that in August last year there was a burglary at an address in Pratts Lane, Mappleborough Green, near Redditch.

The side gates were forced open during the night and the lock to the shed was cut before the raiders escaped with garden equipment.

But in the early hours of the morning the police had a call to report that two men were acting suspiciously in Pedmore Close, Redditch, where Stephens’ sister lives.

They had been seen unloading a rotavator, a petrol lawnmower, a petrol strimmer and a blower from a Peugeot 207 in the rain.

When the police arrived they saw Andrews in an upstairs bedroom where he was hurriedly getting undressed and into bed.

The officers had also seen a second man downstairs, but when they were eventually let in by two women, there was no sign of him at first.

They arrested Andrews, and below the loft hatch they saw a pair of wet trainers, and when Stephens then came down from the loft he was also arrested.

Mr Crawford said the bonnet of the Peugeot was still warm, and in the garden shed the police found the lawnmower and other items with raindrops on them.

Stephens, who had made no comment following his arrest, said he ran a tree surgery business and had bought the items in good faith.

Andrews said his half-brother had asked him to help move the items from a lock-up they had, and he did so believing, because of his work, that Stephens owned them.

Following an adjournment for a pre-sentence report to be prepared on Andrews, the court heard that he had three previous convictions for theft.

Stephens had many convictions for offences including burglary, and in February had been jailed for three years after being found guilty of burgling a house in Alcester town centre.

No value was given for the equipment, but Gerald Bermingham, for Stephens, said he said he had paid £580 for it.

“I know there can only be one sentence for my client, because he’s serving three years; but I ask that it is concurrent and that the light at the end of the tunnel is not extinguished.”

Colin Charvill, for Andrews, said: “His involvement was to help pick up some goods and drive them from A to B and help put them in the garden shed.  There was no profit in it for him.”

He pointed out that Andrews had spent 70 days in custody since his conviction, and argued: “Perhaps the period served is sufficient punishment.”

But jailing the two men, Judge Alan Parker told them: “I have to sentence you both for your participation in an offence of handling stolen goods, you having been convicted by a jury following a trial.

“You were both so obviously seething with dishonesty and untruthfulness during the trial, and the jury saw straight through the pair of you.

“These goods must have had a value in the region of about £1,000.  It may have been more.  I am satisfied that both of you, physically and temporally, were close to the burglars.

“I am satisfied these goods were stolen to order and that the intention was to sell them on on the pretext of the vendor being a legitimate business person.

“You, Stephens, were wanted at the time for the burglary of a house you had committed a few weeks before; and you are older than your co-defendant and more criminally sophisticated.”

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