Sunderland burglar punched woman in face when she tried to stop him stealing Christmas presents

Serial criminal Paul Reay is back behind bars.
Serial criminal Paul Reay is back behind bars.
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A burglar punched a woman in the face when she tried to stop him stealing Christmas presents during a raid at her home.

Paul Reay tried to push past the 20-year-old when she came home and caught him helping himself to wrapped gifts from a bedroom at her family home in Millburn Street, Millfield, Sunderland, on December 2 last year.

When the householder stood her ground to try and stop him leaving, the 33-year-old serial burglar, who was out on licence from a previous prison sentence, punched her in the face, which caused bruising and soreness to her nose.

Undeterred by the unexpected violence during the late-night raid, the victim and her friend chased the stranger out into the street but lost sight of him.

Reay, who has nine previous convictions for house raids and has served long prison sentences in the past, was arrested the following day.

He had been seen trying other doors in the street before he crept into the family home when he found theirs unlocked.

Newcastle Crown Court heard the victim's younger sister had been asleep in another bedroom when the violent confrontation took place.

The victim told police after the attack: "I have never been punched before in my life. It has frightened me that someone can do this to another person.

"Every time I go home I am reminded of what happened and what could have happened if I hadn't come home."

The court heard the whole family have been left feeling unsafe in their home.

The victim's mother said: "I no longer feel the house is the safe haven it should be."

Judge Tim Gittins jailed Reay for three-and-a-half years after he admitted one charge of burglary.

The judge told him: "You loaded yourself up with Christmas presents in their wrappings.

"It was at that point the complainant returned and she confronted you in the premises.

"Instead of dropping the items and running out, you sought to push her out of the way.

"When she stood her ground, you punched her to the face, quite squarely.

"She bravely followed you and thereafter the police attended. "

Barry Robson, defending, said Reay's offending is "driven by the drug problems he has" and that he needs professional intervention.

Mr Robson said: "He has spent 14 of the last 18 years in custody. He has had one year in total out of custody in the last ten years.

"He has spent the lion's share of adult life in custody.

"He is willing and motivated to try and assist himself and be assisted by the probation service to break the cycle of offending."

Reay, of Chepstow Street, Millfield, who has no memory of what happened that night, had written a letter to the judge which was handed in at the sentence hearing.