David Cameron describes burglary as a 'despicable and hateful crime'
PUBLISHED September 6, 2012
David Cameron has described burglary as a 'despicable and hateful crime' and disclosed that his own home had been broken into twice in the past.
The Prime Minister was speaking after a judge spared a serial intruder jail, saying that he showed "courage" when breaking into homes.
Speaking on ITV's Daybreak, Mr Cameron said he did not know the details of the case against career criminal Richard Rochford, who was sentenced by Judge Peter Bowers in Teeside.
But he insisted that far from being courageous, burglars were cowardly. He went on: "I've been burgled twice. You feel completely violated when someone has smashed their way into your house and stolen your possessions and I'm very clear that people who repeatedly burgle should be sent to prison.
"Judges sometimes say things which you have to read the full context, and the rest of it. But I'm very clear that 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 - someone breaking into your home.
"That's why this Government is actually changing the law to toughen the rules on self-defence against burglars, saying that householders do have the right to defend themselves."
Mr Cameron highlighted the case this week of Andy and Tracey Ferrie, who were spared prosecution after he shot burglars who broke into their remote farmhouse in Leicestershire with a legally-owned firearm.
In the Teeside case, Judge Bowers admitted that he could be "pilloried" for his decision to suspend Rochford's sentence of two and a half years, but said custody "very rarely does anybody any good".
Teesside Crown Court heard that Rochford, 26, of Redcar, had burgled three homes in East Cleveland and tried to break into another in five days. He had previously been jailed for three years for arson.
Sentencing him, Judge Bowers said: "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. Yet somehow, bolstered by drugs and desperation, you were prepared to do that."
The judge said he accepted that Rochford had been harmed by his previous spell behind bars.
He said: "I think prison very rarely does anybody any good. It mostly leaves people the chance to change their own mind if they want to."
Judge Bowers acknowledged the trauma and fear that could affect burglary victims sometimes for years , the Teesside Evening Gazette reported.
But he told Rochford: "You've been given an extraordinary chance. I might get pilloried for it."
The defendant had admitted two counts of burglary and asked for one more burglary and one attempted burglary to be taken into account.
Graham Brown, defending, said his life had been "scarred" by his introduction and addiction to a heroin treatment drug while previously in prison.
Mark Clayton, 47, an Army veteran whose home was ransacked by Rochford, and who had served in Afghanistan and Bosnia, said the judge was wrong.
He told the Daily Mail: "Picking dead bodies up after they've been blown up, to go into that takes courage.
"Walking into someone's house on an opportunistic whim and basically devastating someone's life by taking things that man has worked so hard for all his life, and taking it away without a thought, isn't courage."