Judge refuses to sentence man who pleaded guilty after being refused legal aid

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A JUDGE refused to sentence a man who admitted stealing more than £5,000 from an elderly woman.

Durham Crown Court heard John Cousins, 49, pleaded guilty before magistrates but later told the writer of his pre-sentence report that he was entitled to the money.

Judge Prince asked Cousins if he had been legally represented when he pleaded guilty.

Cousins said he had spoken to the duty solicitor but was representing himself at crown court because he had been declined legal aid. “I can’t afford a barrister,” he said.

Judge Prince said the case could not be dealt with because if he was entitled to the money then that would be a defence and Cousins should have pleaded not guilty.

The judge adjourned the case and ordered the duty solicitor to attend a hearing at Durham in two weeks to find out what advice had been offered.

Cousins, of Swinside Drive, Belmont, Durham City, was given unconditional bail.