A BURGLAR told a Carlisle Crown Court judge he took part in a house burglary because he wanted to steal and sell a 5kg stash of cannabis which he believed was inside the property.
The astonishingly frank admission came from 26-year-old Leighton Lewis.
At the city’s crown court, Lewis was given a 28-month jail term while his co-defendant Tony McNeil, 27, of Chesterholm, in Sandsfield Park, Carlisle, was jailed for 22 months.
Both men had admitted burgling a garage in Petteril Street, Carlisle, on October 31.
Lewis’s admission came during a hearing which was held to determine whether or not he had been aware that his partner in crime was carrying an axe during the burglary, which the men had to rapidly abandon after an alert neighbour spotted them and called the police.
The two men were spotted beside a black Land Rover which was seen reversing up the back lane behind Petteril Street, the court heard.
Its number plate was wrapped in a black bin-liner.
Gerard Rogerson, prosecuting, questioned Lewis as he gave evidence, asking him repeatedly whether he knew that his co-defendant had been carrying an axe when they arrived at the property to burgle the house.
“No,” said Lewis.
Mr Rogerson said there was no reason for the neighbour who alerted police to not relay her evidence accurately. “She had no axe to grind,” said Mr Rogerson, pointing out that no pun was intended.
When police caught the pair, they found inside the Land Rover two Halloween type masks, gloves, a hammer and an axe, which the neighbour who alerted police had seen one of the men carrying.
Lewis said somebody had told him there were drugs in the house.
Questioned further, he said he believed there was 5kg of cannabis inside the property.
Judge Peter Davies asked: “What were you intending to do with the 5kg of cannabis?”
Lewis replied: “Sell it.”
He suggested the axe may have been in the car because his co-accused worked as a handyman – though McNeil had earlier admitted he took the axe along for his own protection.
Giving his ruling, Judge Davies said there was no evidence in photos taken by the neighbour of Lewis carrying the axe, but he was satisfied that he must have known his co-accused had it.
He accepted it was not intended to cause injury, but rather to deter or threaten should the men be challenged. “The only thing which they hadn’t bargained for was an alert neighbour,” said the judge.
Tariq Khwam, for Lewis, of Lediard Avenue, Currock, said the offence was his client’s first serious conviction.
“His mother is appalled by his behaviour,” said the lawyer, adding that Lewis had been depressed, though there was no evidence for this.
Commenting on the decision to wrap the numberplate of McNeil’s Land Rover in a bin bag, McNeil’s barrister said: “It’s a pretty good way to get police to take notice, putting black bin bags round your number plates. This was not sophisticated.”
Judge Davies said the men had deliberately targeted the house they tried to burgle and had done so with a view to stealing cannabis which would have then been sold on the streets.
He said: “On October 31, 2018, there was an intent to burgle a dwelling house to steal 5 kilos of cannabis.
“It was [charged] as a garage rather than a house.
“What you two did was this: you received a call, Mr Lewis, from someone who said there was 5kg of cannabis to steal and they knew you were the right person to tell; you were the right person to start things in motion.
“That is exactly what you did.
“Armed with that information, you told Mr McNeil and both of you agreed to burgle that house.”
The following day, said the judge, they forced their way into the garage in Petteril Street, intending to get into the house through it. As police arrived, their sirens clearly audible, the pair fled.
The judge added: “The intention was to take cannabis – a substantial amount of it…There was significant degree of planning, and an implement carried…
“Both of you knew what was going on and you share equal responsibility.”
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