Riots: Ursula Nevin freed after handling stolen shorts
- 19 August 2011
- From the section Manchester
A woman has been freed from jail after what is understood to be the first successful appeal against a sentence in connection with last week's riots.
Mother-of-two Ursula Nevin was jailed for five months by a district judge in Manchester, on 13 August.
Nevin, 24, had admitted accepting a pair of shorts looted from a city centre shop by a friend.
Judge Andrew Gilbart QC set aside the prison sentence because Nevin had not actually taken part in the riots.
Hearing the appeal at Manchester Crown Court, Judge Gilbart ordered Nevin to do 75 hours of unpaid work instead.
He said the initial sentence was "wrong in principle".
Nevin was in bed at the time of the riots but her lodger Gemma Corbett helped herself to clothing and footwear from the Vans store and took them back to the house they shared in Stretford.
Nevin, who pleaded guilty to receiving stolen property, had chosen a pair of shorts for herself from the stolen items.
'Circle of hell'
The district judge at Manchester Magistrates' Court had told her she was supposed to be a role model to her sons and criticised her for not speaking up about the stolen goods.
Judge Gilbart, the Recorder of Manchester, said: "Ursula Nevin did not go into Manchester city centre.
"We regard it as wrong in principle that she was subject to a custodial sentence.
"She must pay some sentence because she knew where the goods had come from.
"Seventy-five hours of unpaid work appears to be the appropriate figure bearing in mind the guilty plea."
The judge had previously indicated a distinction could be made for people receiving stolen goods who had not been physically present during the disorder in Manchester city centre and Salford on 9 August.
Addressing Nevin, who has no previous convictions, he said: "You must have found yourself, in the circumstances of the last week, trapped in a circle of hell.
"The way you never get into that situation again is to show the courage to say 'no'.
"I am sure the courts will not be troubled by you again. Leave now and look after your children."
The defendant cried as the sentence was reduced, as did family members in the public gallery.
Nevin's solicitor Peter Broderick read out a statement on her behalf outside court.
It said: "I am very sorry about the events of the last 10 days.
"The last week has been a traumatic experience for me - one that I just want to forget.
"I just want to go home now and see my children."
Michael Morley, prosecuting, earlier told the court it was "perhaps to the misfortune" of Nevin that she had rented a room to Corbett, who was the sister of her then boyfriend.
Police received a tip-off that 24-year-old Corbett, who was jailed for 18 months, had been boasting about her exploits by showing off photographs of the stolen goods on her mobile phone.
She had stolen four pairs of trainers, two pairs of shorts, a rucksack and a bag, worth a total of £625 from the Vans store in Church Street.
She was arrested two days later and police searched their home in North Lonsdale Street.
Richard Vardon, defending, said his client had been "torn" with feelings of loyalty to her boyfriend.
He said the "doting" mother, who had never been arrested, had been separated from her two young children for the first time in their lives.
"She has been devastated by that period of separation and devastated by her first period in custody," he said.
"In her own words she says she is absolutely disgusted by those who wreaked havoc in this city."
He said she was "ashamed and humiliated" at appearing in court.
"This offence was brought upon her by others, one who made no comment to the police," he said.
She found being in prison "extremely challenging", he added.
David Toal, defending Corbett, told the court his client had stolen to help repay debts.
Jailing Corbett for 18 months, Judge Gilbart told her it was a "bad case" as she made two trips to the shop.
However, as she had been so candid with an early guilty plea, he kept her sentence at the "very bottom of the range", he said.
David Cameron and other members of the government have previously supported "tough sentences" handed out to people in connection with the rioting.
However, a spokeswoman for 10 Downing Street declined to comment on Ms Nevin's reduction in sentence.
"Magistrates and judges are independent of government," a spokesman for the Ministry of Justice said.
"Their sentencing decisions are based on the individual circumstances of each case and offender."