Crowd chased stunned thief in town centre
A large crowd chased a thief through a town centre and forced him to drop a purse that he had taken from a pensioner.
But although Aaron Billingsley got away, he was soon arrested because witnesses had recognised him as he fled.
And at Warwick Crown Court Billingsley, 32, of Mill Close, Southam, pleaded guilty to robbing his 73-year-old victim.
But Recorder William Mousley QC said he could take “an exceptional course” in imposing a community sentence with 18 months supervision and a condition of taking part in a drug rehabilitation programme.
Prosecutor Patrick Sullivan said that around midday on March 20 last year the pensioner, who had been shopping in Southam town centre with her 11-year-old grandson, came out of a shop with her purse in her hand.
She said Billingsley then “came from nowhere” and grabbed at her purse.
The plucky grandmother clung on to the purse, but he twisted her arm up and managed to wrest it from her grip.
He made off down the street pursued by, in his words, “half of Southam”, during which he dropped the purse. Billingsley managed to get away as one of his pursuers stopped to retrieve the purse.
But witnesses had recognised him, and when he was arrested at his home he admitted what he had done and expressed remorse, adding that he was suffering from depression at the time. Annabel Hamilton, defending, said a letter had been handed in which Billingsley wished to be passed to his victim. When Billingsley, who had no previous convictions, dropped the purse he had shouted to his pursuers: “Tell her I’m sorry.”
She said Billingsley had told a psychiatrist: “I can’t be in busy places. I have panic attacks and do stupid things.”
Miss Hamilton explained that Billingsley suffers from agoraphobia, as a result of which prison “is something which will have a detrimental impact on him” and would also make doing any unpaid work difficult.
Sentencing Billingsley, Recorder Mousley told him: “You robbed a 73-year-old woman of her purse when she was with her 11-year-old grandson.
She was angry and frustrated at what had happened to her, and I am sure she was shaken up, but fortunately this does not appear to have had any lasting effect on her.
This is the first time you have been before the court for a criminal offence; and I have read the pre-sentence and psychiatric reports.
It is plain you suffer from agoraphobia which has affected you for a long time, and this offence was committed by you when you were unwell.
What makes your offence serious is that the victim was vulnerable and a child was present.
But I have reached the conclusion that this is one of those exceptional cases where it would be wrong for me to send you to prison.”
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Thursday 23 May 2013
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