A BURGLAR who raided a Cotswolds farmhouse and stole more than £10,000 worth of jewellery has walked free from court despite the devastating impact the offence has had on the owners.
Ian Richards, aged 40, who was caught because his face was clearly visible on the owner's home CCTV, had been held in custody since his arrest at the end of January.
But today a judge at Gloucester crown court freed him with a 2 year jail sentence suspended for two years.
Recorder Peter Towler imposed a three months home curfew on Richards from 8pm to 6.30 am each night and ordered him to undergo a 30 day rehabilitation activity programme
Richards, of Kingscote rd, Hucclecote, Gloucester, admitted burgling the home of Emma Butcher at New Barn Farm, Temple Guiting, nr Stow on the Wold, on 27th January this year.
Prosecutor Nick O'Brien said that Ms Butcher and her family were away for a few days at the time of the raid but the house was well covered by CCTV and an alarm system.
In the early hours of the morning, at about 3.30, she was asleep in a hotel when her alarm system sent an alert to her mobile phone. However she did not look at it till the morning when she saw a picture of two burglars outside her front door.
One showed Richards clearly but the other man had his face covered and has not been identified.
"The two people were seen ringing the doorbell, walking away and later coming back again," Mr O'Brien said.
"They then broke in and must have been in the house for some time because the police automatic number plate recognition system shows their car going to the property at 2.25am and not leaving till 4.40am.
"When Ms Butcher got back she found that throughout the house drawers had been searched and left open. Three iPads were stolen and £200 cash was taken from a purse in the kitchen. Bank cards and three phones were stolen.
"A great deal of jewellery valued at £10,000 at least was also taken. Nothing has been recovered.
"As a result of the defendant's face being seen on CCTV he was stopped in a car a day or so later and arrested. He was wearing the jacket seen in the CCTV image.
" But he told the police he couldn't remember anything of the offence because he had been given 'Spice' - the once legal high - and was told later that he had done the burglary. The prosecution rejects that explanation."
The court heard that Richards had six previous convictions for domestic burglary although all but one of them was back in the 1990s.
In a victim impact statement Ms Butcher said "I no longer feel safe in my own home. I constantly worry about the burglars coming back to steal the other items they missed.
"We have several children and we used to leave doors open but now we have to lock them all. My partner and I have changed our sleeping positions in bed so he can be closer to the door in case of burglary again.
"What particularly upsets me is that two of the stolen rings were given to me by my grandmother and they have lots of sentimental value to me."
She said she no longer feels able to stay in the house and will be moving out with her family in May.
"My partner is still struggling to sleep at night," she said. "Both of us are struggling to deal with the emotions this has caused."
Joe Maloney, for Richards, said he still maintained he had been given a 'substance' which caused him to get involved in the burglary when he had no need to do so,
He was working at that time and his bank records showed he had £400 in his account on the day of the raid, he said.
Passing sentence Recorder Towler said "You told the police when you were arrested that you had no recollection of the night in question after the point at which you had smoked a cigarette at a pub which you were later told contained the drug Spice.
"However, the CCTV footage clearly shows you and at least one other person outside the house and it is clear the burglary lasted some time, more than an hour.
"Some of what you stole was of great sentimental value. Not only has Ms Butcher lost those items of value to her but she has come to the conclusion she can no longer bear to live in that house and they are planning to move.
"That kind of impact is an aggravating feature in a case of this kind. It is category one in the sentencing guidelines with a starting point of 3 years custody and a range of 2-6 years.
"I have read through your lengthy criminal record and note that you have six previous convicitions for domestic burglary. Only one of those is since 1999 when the autmatic minimum sentence came into force.
"You also have a large number of 17 non domestic burglaries and other offences on your record, some of them serious.
"You have been to prison on a number of occasions. At the time of this offence you were subject to a community order made by Gloucester Magistrate in August last year for using threatening behaviour. Your progress on that order was reported as being good.
"You said to your probation officer that you were never going to go back to prison again.
"I have seen a number of letters - from your employer and your bank statement which shows you were in work and had money in the bank and no need to commit this offence.
"I have seen letters from your mother and also from your thirteen year old son.
"The efforts you have made in the last year or so justify me taking a course I would not otherwise have taken. You have been able to re-establish a relationship with your son and indeed with his mother and everything was going in the right direction until stupidly you got in with the wrong people and succumbed to their persuasion and committed this offence."