In the Media

'Safari boy' sent on taxpayer-funded holiday to mend ways clocks up 112th offence

PUBLISHED July 12, 2012

• Sprang to notoriety in 1993 when he was sent by social services on 88 day junket to Egypt and Kenya

• Judge Jamie Tabor: "We have been looking at each other across this court for many years.

• Hook is descendent of Private Henry Hook, the Rorke's Drift VC hero of the Zulu Wars

• 32 court appearances over the last twenty years comprising 111 offences

• Sentenced to 18 months in prison but will be free again in days

A lifelong criminal who caused a political furore when he was sent on safari in his teens has been jailed for committing his 112th offence.

Mark Hook was described as a "perpetual villain" by a judge.

Hook, 35, was at Gloucester crown court to be sentenced for his latest crimes, mugging a woman shopper and handling property stolen from another woman.

Judge Jamie Tabor QC sentenced him to 18 months in prison, but because he has been in custody on remand for nine months he will be free again within days.

Passing sentence, Judge Tabor told Hook: "We have been looking at each other across this court for many years.

"There have been many protestations from you that you are going to become an honest citizen and behave yourself. So far you haven't."

The judge said Hook's latest crimes were exactly the same as when he was last jailed - for two years - in 2009 for mugging a frail 80 year-old man in the street.

"You have an appalling record," said the judge. "Your latest offences were planned and you acted in concert with another person. You are a perpetual villain."

Hook sprang to notoriety in 1993 when he was sent by social services on an 88 day junket to Egypt and Kenya in an attempt to keep him out of trouble.

A descendant of Private Henry Hook, the Rorke's Drift VC hero of the Zulu Wars, Hook's safari, funded by social services, caused a national outcry and was condemned in the House of Commons by Prime Minister John Major.

The idea had been to take Hook away from the area where he committed his juvenile crimes and show him places where people were worse off than him.

But it all backfired and soon after Hook's return he started offending again - continuing on an almost non-stop crime spree which has carried on until this day.

Hook pleaded guilty today to stealing a bag from Mrs Pervin Chakatami in an alleyway near Asda, Gloucester, on 26th September last year and handling credit cards stolen on the same afternoon from Mrs Jacqueline Mann.

Prosecutor Andrew Wilkins said another man, 23 year old Jason Marshall, of Sling, nr Coleford, Glos, was involved in the offences and has already been jailed for 18 months at an earlier hearing.

Mrs Mann was in the alleyway when she was approached by Marshall and offered to help carry her bags, said Mr Wilkins. When she declined he became threatening and used violence.

"Her leg was kicked from under her and she went to the ground. Her bag was taken.

"Half an hour later Mrs Chakatami was approached in the same area by Marshall - and Mr Hook was hovering in the background on a bike. Mr Marshall snatched her bag with enough force to break the strap. He ran off with it and Hook blocked her path to stop her from pursuing him.

"Marshall was identified within the hour and 20 minutes after he was arrested Hook made two calls to Crimestoppers! He identified himself and said he had just witnessed a robbery and claimed he had fought with the robber,

"He said he was aware the robber had been arrested and he was worried he might be implicated because his fingerprints might be found on the stolen property. "

Judge Tabor said "It was a pre-emptive strike by him to try to explain his fingerprints."

Mr Wilkins said that after making the phone calls Hook went to the police station - where he had a confrontation with Marshall. He denied any involvement in the offences but was arrested and charged.

Marshall later admitted the offences but told police it was Hook who came up with the bag snatching plan.

Undeterred by his arrest, Hook went into Debenham's in Gloucester 2 weeks later with credit cards taken from both women and tried to use them, added Mr Wilkins.

He told the court Hook has made 32 court appearances over the last twenty years comprising 111 offences, 43 of which are thefts.

Dermot Clarke, defending, told the court Hook has spent 274 days in custody on remand and he asked the judge to pass a sentence which would allow his immediate release. Otherwise, he said, he may lose his accommodation in Barton street.

"He knows you well, Your Honour, and he doesn't want to shilly shally with you," said Mr Clarke. "He is 35 and he has got a four year old daughter. He has not seen her since he was remanded in custody because her mother will not take her to prison

"You may have heard it before but I have no doubt of his sincerity when he says he never wants to be here again."

"I don't want him here again" replied the judge.

In prison on remand Hook had been treated for his drug addiction and had become the jail's race relations representative, Mr Clarke said.

In passing sentence the judge told Hook he need not stand up 'because of your bad hips.;

The only factor in Hook's favour was that he had pleaded guilty, he said. He sentenced him to 18 months for theft and six months concurrently for handling stolen goods and told him "You will be released very shortly,"