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Last updated at 17:29 BST, Monday, 10 September 2012

Courageous burglar

Summary

10 September 2012

A judge in the north east of England is facing an investigation after telling a burglar that his crime took a huge amount of courage. The judge's comments have led to widespread criticism from the general public and even the prime minister.

Reporter:

Beth McLeod

Somebody climbing through a window

The judge angered lots of people when he said the burglar had courage

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Report

Instead of handing down a hefty jail term to Richard Rochford for burgling three homes in five days, Judge Peter Bowers was sympathetic. He acknowledged that burglary victims suffer trauma but, after hearing that Rochford had given up drugs, gave him a suspended 12-month sentence, a one-year driving ban and an order to complete drug rehabilitation.

But what really drew the ire of his critics were his comments. He told the court, "It takes a huge amount of courage to burgle somebody's house. I wouldn't have the nerve." The Prime Minister, David Cameron, speaking on ITV, joined the outcry against the judge.

"Burglary is not bravery, burglary is cowardice, burglary is a hateful crime. People sometimes say it's not a violent crime but actually if you've been burgled you do feel it was violent."

Mark Clayton's house was burgled by Rochford, and he says that the judge's definition of courage is wrong.

"I did 22 years with Her Majesty's forces. I served in some unsavoury spots in the world and I've had to do a lot of things that, you would say, took immense courage, not just me but, as a team, took an immense amount of courage."

Jeremy Dean, QC, a criminal defence lawyer, said the judge's use of the word 'courage' was unfortunate.

"Sometimes lawyers, as well as everyone else, use language which they subsequently regret, and this was regrettable, but the fact of the matter is that the judge clearly passed a sentence which, he believes, is likely to protect the public in the long term, more than to send this particular offender to prison for a limited period of time."

The Office for Judicial Complaints said it is considering the matter after being contacted by members of the public who are angry about the judge's comments.

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Vocabulary

hefty

large, heavy

sympathetic

understanding, compassionate

burglary

stealing from a property

drew the ire of

angered

courage

bravery, fearlessness

outcry

protest

cowardice

lacking courage

unsavoury

unpleasant

immense

great

regret

feel sorry about (something that has happened)