A TEENAGE lead thief has walked free from court after a raid on a church caused £3,000 in damages.
Josh Major, 18, was part of gang that stripped lead from the roof of St Oswald’s Vicarage in Shiney Row on April 6 this year.
Newcastle Crown Court heard that Major, who would not name his accomplices, was found hiding in bushes at 3am by a police dog after scarpering when officers arrived at the church.
The court heard that there was a total loss of £3,000 to the disused church, including £1,700 worth of lead removed, and significant further damage to the roof.
Police found two piles of lead sheathing in the grounds, which had been ripped from the roof of the vicarage
Bridie Smurthwaite, prosecuting, said: “After his arrest he denied the offence and said he had been taking a shortcut through the grounds to his mother’s home when he saw the lead and decided to take it because it was valuable and he could cash it in.”
The prosecution accepted that Major could not have removed the lead himself because of a leg injury he was suffering from at the time made it impossible for him to climb onto the roof.
However the defendant acknowledged his involvement based on his presence in the grounds.
Glen Gatland, defending, said that Major is now successfully undertaking a fabrication and welding course at the Blue Square Training Centre, run by Sunderland College.
Major, of Southcroft, Fatfield, Washington, pleaded guilty to theft.
Sentencing him to four months suspended for 12 months, Judge Brian Freedman said: “It may be that you weren’t on the roof but you were nevertheless party to this.”
Reverend Stephen Osman, priest-in-charge of churches in Herrington, Penshaw and Shiney Row, said: “In many cases, the cost to repair the damage caused by the thieves is a lot more than the actual lead is worth.”
Major was also ordered to carry out 120 hours of unpaid work.