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Judge backs scheme as thief jailed

A controversial scheme which saw a prolific teenage burglar initially avoid custody has been defended as he was jailed for five years after reoffending.

Bradley Wernham, 19, has admitted hundreds of offences with police estimating he has stolen about £1.1 million of goods, including sports cars, since he was 11.

The teenager was given an opportunity to turn his back on his life of crime when he appeared before Judge Christopher Ball QC last October to be sentenced for 17 thefts and burglaries, with another 645 being taken into consideration.

Instead of jail, Wernham was given a string of community penalties which included a three-year supervision order and a night-time curfew, and required him to carry out unpaid work. It was the first time Essex Police had tried the "innovative" scheme, which the judge admitted was a "gamble".

But months later, in January, Wernham attempted to burgle another house in Essex, the county where he carried out all his crimes.

Sentencing him to four-and-a-half years in jail for the original offences, and a further six months for the attempted burglary, Judge Ball said Wernham's "immaturity" was to blame for him not fully engaging in the scheme. Wernham, who will have the 376 days already served in custody for all the crimes taken off his sentence, smiled as he was led away.

Chelmsford Crown Court heard Wernham initially co-operated with the project by admitting 645 crimes - 300 of which were burglaries. Some had never been reported to police, and officers would have had no prospect of charging Wernham over the rest.

The judge described Wernham as a "prolific and successful burglar" and added: "He was confessing simply everything he had done and got away with. The sentence I then passed was a considered and deliberate risk in the hope that, given the encouraging signs, that such a course would indeed break Mr Wernham out of his cycle of offending.

The judge praised the police for trialling the scheme despite Wernham's reoffending, saying: "There are more ways of making life safer for the public than just locking people up."

He added: "There is real scope for these aspects of rehabilitation to take place in the community and occasionally, in cases such as this, the risk is justified. It was a unique case. The fact that it has not been successful in the sense that Mr Wernham has chosen to reoffend must not discourage the police from continuing to employ the scheme and this approach to selected offenders."


From Belfast Telegraph