Watchdog to investigate judge's 'burglary takes courage' remarks

Judge Peter Bowers Judge Peter Bowers reportedly said he would not have "the nerve" to burgle a house

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A judge who described a drug-addicted serial thief as "courageous" is to be investigated by the judicial watchdog.

Judge Peter Bowers reportedly made the remark while sentencing 26-year-old Richard Rochford for burglary.

The Teesside Crown Court judge also said he thought prison did criminals "little good".

His remarks sparked criticism and Prime Minister David Cameron said burglars were "cowards" whose "hateful crime" violated victims.

Rochford, of Westbourne Grove, Redcar, admitted two burglaries and asked for one more burglary and one attempted burglary to be taken into account.

He was given a two-year supervision order with drug rehabilitation and 200 hours' unpaid work, with a one-year driving ban.

'Not bravery'

The judge reportedly told the offender on Tuesday: "It takes a huge amount of courage, as far as I can see, for somebody to burgle somebody's house. I wouldn't have the nerve."

He added that he "might get pilloried" for his decision, but claimed jail would not do much good in this case and said: "I'm going to take a chance on you."

A spokesperson for the Office for Judicial Complaints said it had "received a number of complaints in relation to comments that His Honour Judge Bowers made in relation to a case in Teesside Crown Court on 4 September 2012".

David Cameron on ITV Daybreak: "Burglars should be sent to jail"

"Those complaints will be considered under the Judicial Discipline Regulations in the usual way. It would not be appropriate to comment further at this stage," the spokesperson said.

Speaking to ITV's Daybreak programme, Mr Cameron said: "I haven't seen the specific case.

"Judges sometimes say things that, you have to read the full context and the rest of it.

"But I'm very clear; burglary is not bravery, burglary is cowardice, burglary is a hateful crime.

"People sometimes say it is not a violent crime but, actually, if you've been burgled, you do feel it was violent, breaking into your home.

"That's why this government is actually changing the law to toughen the rules on self-defence towards burglars."

'Too lenient'

One of Rochford's victims, Mark Clayton, of Lingdale, North Yorkshire, condemned Judge Bowers' comments.

He said: "How can a man who is burgling houses be told it takes courage and be let off? He hasn't learnt anything from his mistakes.

"What is courage? I did 22 years with Her Majesty's forces. I've done a lot of things that took immense courage.

Richard Rochford Richard Rochford will undergo a drug rehabilitation course

"The judge has been too lenient towards this guy's mental state. It's hardly fair.

"I don't know anything about the prison service but I'm sure it's all about rehabilitating people. That's why it's there."

Mr Clayton said Rochford had broken into his house in the early hours, ransacked it and taken laptops, televisions and items of sentimental value.

He added: "I thought Rochford would get some sentence. He has to learn from what he's done. He can't just be let off for the crimes he's committed."

Javed Khan, chief executive of the national charity Victim Support, said burglars should be brought to justice because of the impact of their actions on victims.

"Burglary can be a traumatic experience for victims and leave long lasting scars," he said.

"It is therefore disappointing to see it being taken lightly by anyone - not least someone whose role it is to make sure offenders are brought to justice."

A Ministry of Justice Spokeswoman said: "Sentencing is purely a matter for the courts, as only they have the full facts of a case before them."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 919.

    I think we should give the judge the opportunity to explain himself.

    he may well be right on both accounts - however what he seems to have missed is the effect on the victims of crime and society in general.

    It may not help the individual to be locked up - but at least he/she is not committing further crime whilst incarcerated.

  • rate this

    Comment number 918.

    Maybe when judge Peter Bowers is sacked, he himself will become a "courageous" burglar in order to feed his family.

  • rate this

    Comment number 917.

    We have two sentences of the judge's comments taken completely out of context and everyone thinks they know what he actually said. What I'm sure he was not saying was that he condoned crime. Poor reporting and poor responses here, frankly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 916.

    104. JCisJD
    Yes David, in the end, it all comes down to cowardly theft.

    So RU not stealing from millions of people with your "austerity measures" whist giving the banks billions in bailout benefits at the cost to the taxpayer?
    - - -

    It could also be said that continuous over-borrowing in order to live beyond our country's means, is stealing from our own children and grandchildren.

  • rate this

    Comment number 915.

    One of the main reasons why people take the law into their own hands is because in many respects the police and judiciary have abdicated their responsibility to take the law into theirs. The couple who defended themselves with a shotgun, even though charges were dropped, now have a CRB criminal record just by being arrested, and may now have difficulty in travelling to the USA.

  • rate this

    Comment number 914.


    Just sack the clown

  • rate this

    Comment number 913.

    886. Fair point I suppose. Unfortunately the cost of prison make that an expensive choice too. Hence my point that if a criminal will respond to non-custodial sentences and is no danger to society (which a burglar could well be), then the judge should consider them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 912.

    Somehow, I knew what I was going to read as soon as I saw a HYS was open. I hope we're not going to deny that it does take courage to engage in an act with serious risks - regardless of the legal status of the act.

  • rate this

    Comment number 911.

    This judge is a halfwit. Too many stupid liberal judges. Bring back a few so called hanging judges. This lot along with fools who sit on immigration panels should be sacked. Too lenient and give too much to the culprits I.e. criminals.

  • rate this

    Comment number 910.

    The judge just doesn't understand that prison is probably the most secure and functional environment most of its occupants will ever experience - warm, dry, meals provided, laundry done, no bills to pay and a range of entertainment options. Plus drugs you don't have to steal to fund.

    Deterrent? Only to those whose life outside was better, which doesn't include most petty criminals.

  • rate this

    Comment number 909.

    Human Rights should be forfeited for all prisoners.Basic care to sustain life on initially entering prison & only when genuine remorse for victims has been shown & a willingness to lead a normal law abiding life should they be shown compassion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 908.

    902 strangebrew

    If only you were the new Minister of Justice.

    Brilliant suggestion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 907.

    Hopefully that is Peter Bowers out of a job.

  • rate this

    Comment number 906.

    @892.Bill Walker
    "Prisoners released early from jail already receive compensation for the free board lost due to early release"

    Please tell me that's a joke?

  • rate this

    Comment number 905.

    Simply locking up people for longer will not solve the issues that caused people to behave like this, for example poor education. All it will result in is massive costs for the tax payers and high numbers of reoffenders, it is another example of the government ignoring issues.

  • rate this

    Comment number 904.

    Judges and Politicians rarely have first hand experience of such crimes and appear to have little understanding of the real impact. Unless sentences are very stiff there will be no effective deterrent. Drug taking is also a crime that should be punishable; we should not pander to such scum, we should lock them up, let them go through "cold turkey" and then see if they really want to do it again!

  • rate this

    Comment number 903.

    After my house was burgled, I had to take unpaid time off work to sort things out & getting damage repaired.
    My Wife was worried & scared for a long time afterwards & it took a while to get things right.
    This Judge should stand down; he has no idea the effects of burglary have on the victims & needs to ask himself whose side he is on?

  • rate this

    Comment number 902.

    Maybe being a judge should be a licensed activity...a license only valid for say 5 years before the judge has to reapply for a license.

    The committee that appoints would have access to VICTIMS assessment of how the judge performed in their case apart from the statistical breakdown of all his previous cases.

    Out of touch ignorant judges are an anathema to society, time society changed the rules.

  • rate this

    Comment number 901.

    Prison may not have any 'rehabilitative merit' but it sure prevents the thief breaking into you home for a year or 2. The judge should be introduced to the family living in the next home this low life robs. The criminal classes are laughing at us all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 900.

    876. I must admit, when judges include things like "I have never encountered a more heinous crime in my career" in their summations, I always think they're just showing off their vocab =)

    Have to say though, public service doesn't just mean caving in to the public mood. It's as much about resisting the urge to just give people whatever they want RIGHT NOW for the sake of a quiet life.


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