Sunderland roofer spared jail after stealing from disabled neighbour who loaned him money

Benjamin Armstrong
Benjamin Armstrong

A burglar who stole cash from the home of a disabled neighbour has walked free from court.

Benjamin Armstrong sneaked into his victim's home when he was kept waiting at the door for her to fetch £10 she had kindly agreed to lend him.

Newcastle Crown Court heard the woman knew the 31-year-old roofer only as someone she would "see in passing" and "would wave at her", but agreed to help him out when he turned up without warning.

It was only after he left that the victim, who uses a wheelchair, realised £230 in cash she kept at her home to pay for her carers was gone.

Prosecutor Emma Dowling told the court: "He has targeted someone who he knew was vulnerable because of disability.

"It is not a case where he did not know who lived there."

Armstrong, now of Flodden Road, Ford Estate, Sunderland, denied burglary, but was convicted by magistrates after a trial, where his victim gave evidence.

She attended court again for the sentence hearing to bravely read out her victim impact statement in person.

The woman, who was in her wheelchair, told the court: "I am always watching out of the window, worried he will come back. With every noise I'm up, looking out of the window.

"I am disabled and use a wheelchair. I can't walk properly or any distance. I am at risk of falling.

"I never used to worry before the incident. I feel my vulnerabilities have been taken advantage of."

The court heard Armstrong, who has a partner and children, no longer lives in the victim's street.

Tony Cornberg, defending, said Armstrong described his own offending as a "stupid, horrible thing to do".

He said Armstrong had been made redundant shortly before the raid and spent the stolen cash on "food for his children".

Mr Cornberg added that Armstrong has since found new employment and told the court: "He is thoroughly ashamed of himself and remorseful."

Mr Recorder Chris Smith sentenced Armstrong to 18 months' imprisonment, suspended for two years, with 150 hour's unpaid work, rehabilitation requirements and an order to pay his victim £240 compensation.

The judge said he was satisfied Armstrong acted on "impulse" when went inside the house after being left at the door.

He told Armstrong: "She is entitled to feel safe there and now she doesn't because you trespassed onto her private space and stole from her."

The judge made a restraining order to keep Armstrong away from the woman for life.