On the morning of the 25th of July 2011 I observed Cambridge magistrates sentence Mr Justin McKenzie Sharp, born on the 7th of March 1962, and living at 222 Victoria Road in Cambridge to eight weeks in jail.
Mr Sharp was not in custody prior to the hearing, he walked into court carrying two large holdalls, and stood in the unlocked dock.
He pleaded guilty to charges of trespass and burglary at what was described as the Rossier Chemist / Milton Road Pharmacy on Milton Road in Cambridge.
The prosecution said that at fifteen minutes past midnight on the 22nd of June 2011 a witness had heard banging which made her look outside her window; she saw someone swinging their arms, holding something like a hammer, attacking the glass door of the pharmacy. When he smashed the door and entered she called the police. The witness reported the person made off with a carrier bag from within the shop a few minutes later. The owner Mr Rossier was contacted at 00:30, he attended and determined that about £50 worth of tablets were missing.
The police caught the defendant in an alley nearby at 00:20 with the stolen items.
The mitigating solicitor, Mr Mamood, told the court his client had told him: “It seemed like a good idea at the time”. He said he and been caught near Elizabeth Way as and he was making his way back to 222 Victoria Road after committing the offence.
The prosecution said that the burglary had caused Mr Rossier stress and inconvenience he could have done without, and Mr Rossier had produced an invoice for £318.61 for the damage done to the door, and asked for £50 to cover the costs of the tablets stolen, which even though recovered, could not be dispensed to anyone else.
Magistrates were informed Mr Sharp was “on licence”.
The magistrates asked what the tablets were, and were told they were two different types of codine.
Mr Mamood asked magistrates if his client could be given a “last chance”, he said that on the day of the offence his client had received some bad news about his state of health, he has Emphysema. He claimed his client wanted to pay compensation from his benefits and wants to apologise.
Mr Mamood then turned to an inconsistency between what Mr Sharp had told the police and what he had told the probation service. Sharp had told the police he was acting alone, but the probation service that others were involved. Mr Mamood appeared to be trying to suggest to the magistrates that the fact his client was prepared to “take responsibility” for the offences was something they should consider as a positive, despite sharing his belief that in fact what he’d said to the probation service was likely to be true and therefore that he’d lied to the police.
Magistrates retired to deliberate in private.
While they were out there was discussion in court about the defendant’s record. He had been released from prison, on licence, in February 2011; though he claimed there was something missing from his record as presented to the court. The clerk said that if this became important it would be put to Magistrates when they came back.
The magistrates returned and explained they felt the offence was “so serious” that it warranted custody. They said the type of premises targeted (a pharmacy) and the fact it had been planned were aggravating factors. They said they sentenced him to twelve weeks, which would be reduced to eight for the early guilty plea. They decided not to award any costs or compensation. (Which presumably means the owner of the pharmacy will have to pay for the damage, and lost goods himself).
As the sentence was announced two private security guards from G4S entered the court, joined Mr Sharp in the dock, closed and locked the door from the dock to the court, handcuffed Mr Sharp and led him to the cells via the other door out of the dock. Once Mr Sharp had been taken away another G4S employee entered the court to re-open the dock.
A yobbish youth who had entered the public gallery when Mr Sharp came into court shouted out to Mr Sharp that it would be OK and he’d only have to serve four weeks as Mr Sharp was being handcuffed.
I was surprised that no order for costs / compensation was made.
I was also surprised that when sentencing Mr Sharp the Magistrates made no reference to the previous sentence, from which Mr Sharp was out on licence. Was robbing a pharmacy not a breach of his licence conditions; should he not have been recalled to prison to serve more of his original sentence as well as serving the sentence for this offence?
Spellings of names are based on what I heard in court.