A JUDGE has slammed soft sentencing guidelines after two men who masterminded a £10,000 jewellery raid walked free from court.
George Smith and John Reed covered a house alarm box with foam to stop it being heard and wore clothing – including a high-visibility jacket – so they would be mistaken for workmen by anyone who saw them.
The pair used tools to break into the property in South Hylton, Sunderland, and stole more than £9,500-worth of precious jewellery.
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But Newcastle Crown Court heard their cunning facade did not fool neighbours, who thought the pair looked “dodgy” and called the police.
The duo were arrested nearby and all of the jewellery taken was recovered.
Reed, 50, of Westwood Street, Sunderland, and Smith, 43, of St John’s Vale, Pennywell, admitted burglary.
The court heard both men have been in trouble in the past but are not heavily convicted.
Mr Recorder Ben Nolan sentenced them both to 12 months imprisonment, suspended for two years, with a six month curfew from 9pm to 6am and 120 hours’ unpaid work.
The judge told them: “Burglary is an offence which causes great upset and distress.
“Guidelines on burglary are ludicrously low but I feel I am bound by those guidelines.”
The court heard despite the expensive haul taken from the house the family got their entire collection of jewellery, which included sentimental items, all back thanks to the quick-thinking neighbours.
Prosecutor Emma Dowling told the court: “One neighbour saw the two men in the rear garden. One was wearing high visibility clothing and was popping out the central panel of the rear door with a tool.”
The court heard the worried witness alerted another neighbour and the men sought to detain the raiders until the police got there.
Miss Dowling added: “Having picked up two golf clubs as a visual deterrent they wanted to apprehend the two burglars until the police arrived.
“They saw the burglars leave the property.
“When Mr Reed saw the two neighbours he shouted ‘haway, come on then’ and Mr Smith made a swift exit.
“Both males were detained by police in the vicinity.”
Jamie Adams, defending, said former nursing home manager Smith had “fallen on hard times” when he took part in the raid but has now set up a landscaping business.
Mr Adams said: “He is well respected in the neighbourhood where he lives, most people know this was completely out of character for him.”
Nigel Barnes, also defending, said Reed also works full time and that the raid was not part of an offending pattern.