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 999.

    Good to know that Judge Bowers is not contemplating a life of crime, lacking the courage it takes to break into the home/business premises of victims. Lucky old Bowers,never to have known the terror of facing down a brave intruder or discover the aftermath of a visit from a plucky burglar, & living with the consequences. Obviously, criminals are to be commended, & that's just what he has done

  • rate this

    Comment number 998.

    Looking at the photo of the miscreant above...classic Jeremy Kyle fodder. Welcome to "broken Britain". I despair!

  • rate this

    Comment number 997.

    This judge is well-known in the North East for being soft on offenders, even violent ones. Clearly he should be sacked, but as he is not accountable to the public, what can we do? Will/can the 'Office for Judicial Complaints' do the right thing and get rid of him? I'm not holding my breath....

  • rate this

    Comment number 996.

    On the Judge Peter Bowers scale of "True Grit", murder must seem positively heroic then...

  • rate this

    Comment number 995.

    #894 "drugs don't make you bad"

    Maybe not, but they do show you're weak and incapable of facing the world without some sort of stimulus, which doesn't say much for you as a human being.

  • rate this

    Comment number 994.

    Three strikes and out.

    If a person is a habitual criminal doing the same crime three times, then on that third sentence it should be an automatic 10 years in prison on top of the sentence.

    No matter what the crime, "Petty" or otherwise, if they've done it three times, then it's obvious they didn't think the previous two sentences was a good enough deterrent.

  • rate this

    Comment number 993.

    Maybe the judge is a good one or just a run of the mill one, I do not know.
    No doubt he has an excellent grasp of the law as it stands and maybe he has a realistic analysis of prison and its affects.
    What is apparent is that a judge should consider his words, this judge clearly did not and has ended up insulting folks that have real courage.
    Folks that face death by IED or sniper bullet every day

  • rate this

    Comment number 992.

    968. "the whole point with criminals is not that they are somehow more corageous, but merely that they lack fear of repercussions."

    This might be true in some cases, but generally speaking, criminality isn't a mental disorder. Most burglars make the same cost-benefit analyses that as you or I would. If it were as you describe, why wouldn't all criminals fearlessly rob banks every day?

  • rate this

    Comment number 991.

    The judicial system is a joke. Presided over by un-elected out of touch judges who have a job for life as long as they do not make a spectacular screw up which is what has happened here. Judges should be elected by the populus not given jobs for life by their cronie mates

  • rate this

    Comment number 990.

    Having been burgled whilst my family and I were on holiday, I have first hand experience of this despicable crime - windows smashed, bedrooms ransacked and possessions taken, including irreplaceable video footage of my children growing up and of my father who'd passed away just a few weeks before. This 'brave' thief should be locked up forever to prevent others going through the same ordeal.

  • rate this

    Comment number 989.

    I think if you are desperate and starving then it would take a leap of some kind to steal for the first time. However habitual criminals now know that there are few deterrents, they cant pay fines with no money, they shouldnt do unpaid work because that could be someones full time job, I agree with 3 strikes and out, if you dont want to abide by societies rules you shouldnt be in society.

  • rate this

    Comment number 988.

    It would be brave if the consequences of getting caught were being strung up, having your hands cut off or being jailed for 25 years, but seeing as though the outcome is usually a few hours of community service and a slapped wrist, I think even the most committed coward could commit a burglary.

  • rate this

    Comment number 987.

    I wonder if his honour has ever been burgled himself? I do however agree that prison does little good.

  • rate this

    Comment number 986.

    969. PhilA
    the sentence is clearly due to the judges views on prison (which from reading these comments, many people agree with!).

    If you define "many" as one in every fifty! Most of us would happily lock them up and throw the key away.

  • rate this

    Comment number 985.

    Just following up on my last post for those who do not know what courage means, it is defined by the english oxford dictionary as -
    "the ability to do something that frightens one"

  • rate this

    Comment number 984.

    Believe it or not, everything requesting for the judge's head, courage is being brave and daring. It takes braveness and courage to to go and rob someone's house. While some show their courage by joining the army or doing some heroic stuff, while some others choose to show theirs by robbing others, it does not change the fact that they are rogues and should be put away but courage is courage!

  • rate this

    Comment number 983.

    Start a campaign to have Peter Bowers replaced by Judge Judy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 982.

    I can see the prozac's wearing off for many of the afternoon posters here - arguing in favour of the Judge's comments. At that point, I know I'm in the land of the not-all-there, so I'll leave you to each other folks.

    Bye moderator. Thanks for letting one or two of my posts stand.

  • rate this

    Comment number 981.

    and this man is payed to give out the sentence off the law, god help us !!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 980.

    #955 - Which dictionary are you using my friend? Please at least be right if you're going to critique every post.


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