Judge lets heroin addict burglar with 145 offences walk free from court with 'one last big chance'
By Luke Salkeld
A burglar addicted to drugs who committed 145 crimes walked free from court yesterday after a judge ruled he deserved another chance.
Dean Weaver, 24, has stolen from homes, cars and businesses in a one-man crimewave to feed his heroin habit.
Judge Martin Picton said Weaver had caused his victims 'a lot of harm' and his crimes deserved 'years' in prison.
But he deferred sentence for three months, telling Weaver that if he stayed
out of trouble he would not go to jail at all. The maximum sentence for burglary is 14 years.
Earlier this year the same judge caused controversy when he lifted a curfew on a 24-year-old who had drunkenly assaulted a policeman so he could fly to Portugal for a golfing holiday.
Yesterday Weaver appeared delighted when he left court after admitting three specimen charges of stealing from a house, a pharmacy and a car.
A further 142 offences were taken into consideration.
Prosecutor Mary Harley said these offences consisted of 126 thefts from cars, five commercial burglaries, seven house burglaries and four counts of taking a vehicle without consent.
The court heard that one of his victims has been left 'vulnerable and frightened' after Weaver stole an £800 television and a handbag from her house while she slept.
The 50-year-old victim, named only as Angela for fear of reprisals, said she was ' disgusted' at the judge's leniency.
The grandmother- of-three from Gloucester said: 'Knowing that someone else has been in your house is horrific. I can't believe he's got away with it. It's beyond belief. He's offended before. I feel so angry.'
Judge Picton's decision is bound to fuel widespread concerns over the lenient treatment of persistent offenders.
Courts are under pressure to avoid jailing criminals because of prison overcrowding.
Earlier this year an official advisory panel said unpaid work or a curfew would be a better punishment than prison.
Last night Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, Conservative MP for the Cotswolds, also criticised Judge Picton's decision.
'This man has caused a huge amount of grief and trouble to an awful lot of people,' he said. 'Somebody who has behaved that badly should be locked up.
'I don't see why his drug rehabilitation cannot go on in jail.
'Sometimes the poor victims need to be given more priority than the offender.'
At Gloucester Crown Court, Judge Picton heard from police and probation officers and then told Weaver he had three months to make progress with his rehabilitation programme and avoid committing more crimes.
He admitted: 'I am taking a big chance on you because these are serious offences which caused a lot of harm.
'But you have had a massive problem with drugs and if you can do something about that, we will all benefit.'
'You could not complain if I locked you up for years for this offending. It is what it is worth.
'But I am going to give you the chance to continue with what is really major progress that started in June.
'If you can stay out of trouble and off drugs for the next three months, I shall find a way to avoid giving you the sentence that these offences are worth.'
He told the court: 'He has had long-term problems and if he keeps taking drugs, he is a oneman crimewave.'
In response, Weaver told the judge: 'This is the first chance I have been given and I have grasped it.'